“I got a runner! Track my bug, in pursuit, suspect one hundred metres coreward of my beacon.”
The figure in flight sped up, weaving between the Rim citizens too slow to clear out of his way. His progress was hampered by the burning pain that seared through his head. The cause was clear, he could feel the damn thing wriggle every time he sucked air into his lungs.
He’d seen them before, in the digisphere. The yellow and blue checkered squares with “Hades Metropolitan” slapped on them did little to soothe his unease when he had looked upon the miniscule bug back then. It did him no favours to know that one of those things were inside him, ensuring he was too pained to remotely access the digisphere.
And so, he ran. He ran until his lungs burned as badly as the pain in his head, and kept running. He heard the officer yell again, didn’t need to hear the words to know it was some variation of “stop.”
He ignored it and threw himself down just as shock darts pattered off the wall in front of him. Screams of pain in the packed crowds marked the unlucky as they convulsed helplessly.
He crawled, using the panicked citizens as cover to flee into a Hedone Den. He pushed past the greeter, leaving the startled man squawking about the entry fee.
He fled, sprinting past row after row of kneeling e-junkies, their heads bowed from the weight of the interlink spike that kept them in the digital orgy. He had no doubt it was more vivid than the silent, cold warehouse he was exiting.
A yell from the street, matching the urgency and tone of the officer behind him, told him he was far from safe.
Two blocks brought into sight his deliverance, the shining spire of an Erracom satellite building and the safety it promised. He dashed across a crowded square, waving his arms, hoping Erracom’s security spotted him.
He was halfway up the stairs that led to Erracom’s building when the third officer lunged at him from the side. He went down like a sack of potatoes. He struggled as the man holding him laughed and said “Got you.”
Frel Smithson pushed the suspect’s head into the dirt and cuffed him, pausing only to reach for the comm on his vest, “Suspect in custody, Central, request backup.”
There was no response, so Officer Smithson hauled his suspect up, only to hear a cybernetic growl that made him freeze.
A cybermastiff glared at him, big as a pony, with fangs like serrated knives. Beside it, a tall Erracom security officer grinned at him from behind a shaded visor. Officer Smithson let out a curse as the officer removed his helmet.
“There’s nothing you can do Gher, tell your masters that we’ll be coming for them once we get your spy here to talk.”
“Oh no, whatever shall I do. Was that what you wanted to hear?” Erracom’s Chief Security Officer said.
“That’s all you have,” Frel said as he held up the cuffed suspect, “I have your spy.”
“No, I don’t think you do.”
The gun sounded incredibly loud despite being outside and Frel flinched, though it was not the officer that fell but his suspect. A neat hole had been punched through the man’s skull. Frel hadn’t even seen the pistol come out from Gher’s coat. He grabbed his own sidearm and pointed it at the Erracom employee.
“Drop the gun! On your knees!”
“I don’t think so.”
The cybermastiff growled deeper, placing its armoured bulk between Frel and Gher, while the officer reached for the comm again.
“Control, need backup, Rim-side, Erracom Satellite Office, corner of 23K.”
Silence answered Frel’s call.
“Control?” Frel queried the digisphere. Silence answered him and a quick query revealed that every camera in a two block radius had simultaneously malfunctioned. He felt a pit of fear swell in his gut as he looked back at Gher who was smiling. Gher’s pistol had returned, and now it was Frel facing down the cybermastiff and the cold tunnel of a pistol barrel.
“I think you’ll find you have nothing.” Gher said, mockingly before he waved his gun.
“You’re free to go, Officer Smithson, but one last piece of advice. You know the icon on the Hades Metropolitan badge?”
Frel knew it, the Terran sun was embraced by the Metropolitan slogan: “Serve and Protect.” He nodded his affirmative.
“It’s not a star, it’s an asterisk. It’s short for “Terms and Conditions Apply.””