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Warning: Cliff ahead....



May 9, 1987

Yes, there's been a slight jump in the dates. So much has happened—so much of it indelibly burned into my mind that for once I don't fear I'm leaving something out.
    It could have been a lot worse.
    Not to get ahead of myself, there. I will attempt to tell the entire sequence as it happened—narrative vanity? I suppose it doesn't matter, since no one will ever read this. Here goes.
     After Lucky dropped me off I wandered anxiously around the hidden base, waiting for things to develop. Phoenix came back after a couple hours and curled into a catlike ball on a table, where he promptly went to sleep—an ability I envied. Albert continued to work, his expression suggestive of intense concentration as the stack of papers slowly shifted position around him.
    Scott's research on the phone number from the hotel pad turned up the name Lynn Mitchell. There is no Lynn Mitchell. The number belongs to a line which runs into a certain office in a certain high-rent office building. Mr. Gordon. I found myself smiling again.
    My phone rang.
    "Hi, it's Lucky. I just ran into Carl, he gave me the number I just called Scott about, I'm going to go check out the address, just wanted to let you know where I was going to be. If you want to come along it's up to you, but I'm going tonight."
    "Do you want any backup, or do you think this is something that would best be handled alone?"
    "I don't know."
    Time to make a leaderly decision. "Phoenix?" I prodded him awake. "You want to go help Lucky out? She's going to South Boston."
    "What, she wants to go get drunk?" he asked groggily. We explained the situation; he agreed to meet her at a diner on the way and headed out through the tunnels.
    "How's it going?" I asked Albert after Phoenix had left.
    "Well enough. There is something I'm missing," he confessed irritably. "I don't know what." He shook his head, waving me away. "Nothing, it's nothing." He's had no luck on the photographs of SysGen staff, but promised vaguely that he would work on it.
    I needed something to do. Time to pay Mr. Gordon a visit. I looked over at Scott. "You want to go check this place out? You're much better than I am at sneaking into buildings."
    "Well, I'm not horrible at it," he admitted modestly.
    "It's practically what you were made for."
    "I was made to break into buildings."
    "Sneakily. Can we stop quibbling?"
    "Let's go take a look at the office building," he agreed. We flew out over the city and approached carefully. Expensive-looking, to say the least, lots of Death-Star-black windows which kept us from seeing into the offices. I checked the listings on the directory; banks, law offices, a couple of public relations firms. And Gordon's United International Consulting. The place was locked up tight, of course, with a security guard on duty at a desk inside. It was nearly one in the morning by then, but my exhaustion had vanished in a blur of adrenaline. I don't think it crossed my mind at the time that I was committing a real breach of the law if we continued this investigation. If the thought occurred to Scott, he didn't mention it.
    We headed for the roof, where the robot turned gaseous and fed himself through the air conditioning system. I landed and dropped my faintly glowing field, leaving me unprotected but somewhat harder to see, and kept a nervous eye out for anything which might suggest he had tripped an alarm.

[Perspective switch: Scott]

    My phone rang.
    "You have any rope?" Scott asked.
    After our little encounter of the afternoon I had decided that we needed a nonlethal way of dealing with any future Javelin drones. Rope would have to do in the event.
    "Do me a favor?"
    "I need you to go over to this side of the building, tie the rope off to something and drop it down past this window. And then I think maybe you should leave when you hear the loud noise."
    "I'm not even going to ask." I left the phone connection live, uncoiled the rope and tied it as requested, catching a glimmer of what he had in mind. Must have found something.
    "Oh wait, don't leave yet, I need you to carry something," he added.
    "Okay." I heard the chopper then, saw the searchlight swinging in our direction. This was not the police vehicle I'd seen earlier; judging from the sound it was far heavier. "Jesus Christ. I think we have some heavy artillery coming our way. How fast can you do this?" I asked him tensely, glanced over the edge and saw a vague cloud hovering there; he'd managed to crack the window slightly from inside.
    "Working on it."
    "I'll draw them off."
    I judged that we had maybe ten seconds. I could see Scott coiled in midair, then saw him snap out against the window, shattering it. Making it look as if someone had come in from outside to perform the theft.
    Soundly cursing the late Senator who had gotten me into this ridiculous racket, I jumped off the roof. Let myself fall a few stories before I caught myself, brought my shield into existence as I moved away from the building, trying to draw their attention away as Scott continued with his plan.
    The searchlight pinned me almost instantly. Definitely a high-end military helicopter, no insignia that I could see through the glare, and I couldn't hear a thing over the roar of the rotors. They fired immediately. Not a projectile weapon, some sort of energy net; I dodged out of the way and saw it dissipate harmlessly in midair. I headed into the city, slowly enough that they could continue to follow me, holding their attention as I dodged between the buildings.

[Perspective switch: Scott]

    Staying visible meant staying pinned in their sights. The next shot hit me square, but the net wrapped around my field and dissipated with no effect other than an unpleasant tingling sensation. Felt like something designed to stun, which was somewhat reassuring, or would have been if I hadn't been forty feet off the ground at the time. After that I just had to hope that Scott had gotten out okay, unwilling to stick around and see if they would switch to more lethal weaponry. I buckled down and shot off at top speed, dropped to nearly ground level and spun around a couple of corners. Their pilot was good, but not good enough to follow that act; I caught glimpse of a stunned expression, then a resigned one before we lost sight of each other. Then I was on the sidewalk, no longer glowing, just an ordinary woman in jeans and a rather dirty T-shirt, and it was a gentle stroll to the nearest tunnel entrance. For once, everything had gone more or less according to plan.
    Looking back now on that long twenty-four hours, I can see it for what it was: a pivotal day in my life, and probably the first such defining moment that has truly been mine. Things have changed over the past few months; I've changed. This is no longer my "job;" it is what I am, and whether or not I have Zed and his ilk to thank for that seems irrelevant right now.
    In any case, my phone rang as I walked.
    "Did you get away?" Scott asked.
    "Yes. Good job."

[Perspective switch: Lucky and Phoenix Talon]

    Scott and I rendezvoused at headquarters shortly before Phoenix showed up again. He gave us a brief description of a battle with chemically enhanced thugs and handed over a phone Lucky had pulled out of the wall with her request to trace the number on the redial.

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© 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson