The smell of burning flesh flooded Nuban’s senses, the bodies of the guards were nearly gone, the furnace roared like a bear, his father’s body didn’t move, the hole in his head, his half opened eyes, he was gone. Nuban’s hopes and dreams had already been swept away, his chance to live a good life, lost in a sea of conspiracy, but he realised now in a moment of clarity that it didn’t matter. Living well was irrelevant if his father was gone, his family, expired, for good, what was the point? Revenge? Stopping others from suffering? He would have to rationalise it, later.
All of this passed through his mind in a moment, his father’s body had hit the plasmetal grating only a second ago, the two weapons pointed at Mara and himself were only a step behind them, could he move quickly enough?
His body tensed, and with years of training and conditioning, never thinking he would need to use it to save his life, he leapt diagonally back, the guard’s reflexes not quite keeping up with the sudden movement, Nuban spun and grabbed the man’s forearm, his hands like robotic clamps, the guard cried in pain. Nuban spun the guard with all his strength, using the momentum to throw him against the other, they both fell back against a railing, one of the weapons hit the floor with a clang, not stopping to see where it landed, he ran at the third guard who had been standing near the furnace entrance. As the older guard stood up and turned on Nuban, the younger man jumped and drove his knee into the man’s chin, a loud crack as his teeth shattered with the weight and force behind the blow sending him back, stunned falling into the flames of the furnace. A quick kick stopped the man from saving himself, his screams filled the area as Nuban turned without remorse they took my family, my fortune, they will pay, he thought as he ran back at the two guards who were trying to collect themselves, entangled as they were.
Nuban drove his left boot down onto one hand clasping desperately for a firearm, with a cry the weapon was relinquished, an open handed chop took the man’s breath away as it hit his neck, he clasped at his throat in panic. The man underneath was bringing his weapon to bare having untangled himself from his comrade but was too slow, another chop, his wrist snapped back, the weapon slid away and out of sight, falling somewhere below with a clang. Standing, the guard took on a defensive position, being no doubt better trained than Nuban, he would be dangerous, but his right hand was now useless, and Nuban had the momentum. Falling upon him, hands flashing, the agent managed to hold his own, his limbs expertly blocking Nuban’s fast yet imprecise attacks. Before long however, his superior strength won out and a hand to the agent’s shoulder and an elbow on the top of his skull knocked him out cold.
The last remaining guard had stopped moving, his wind pipe either crushed, suffocating him, or at least knocking him out due to lack of oxygen.
Breathing heavily, adrenaline running through his body, he turned to Mara, fire in his eyes, she flinched from his stare.
‘We have to go,’ he said bending down to pick his father up, draping one lifeless arm over his shoulder. Mara nodded propping the body up on the other side.
They struggled back to the door that had led them to their crematorium. Back in a corridor, there was no one in sight, they were in a reasonably secure part of the building. They would be seen by security cameras very soon, their sensors were very effective.
‘Where can we go?’ Mara asked, her voice shaking a little.
‘We need to hide my father, then I’ve got to finish what we started.’
‘What do you mean?’
But Nuban lead them away. He recalled seeing various rooms as they were being marched around, and before long he found what he was looking for, a nondescript room, unlocked. Inside it was an empty office.
‘How did you know this would be empty?’
‘The orange light on the door pad, my father explained to me, green means open, red means locked, orange means unoccupied, sort of an administrative thing.’ He said calmly.
Placing his father’s body on the floor in the tiny room Nuban stood, looking at the body.
‘Nuban, I’m so sorry,’ Mara placed her hand on his shoulder.
‘There will be time for mourning later, but now I’ve got to finish this.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I’m going to stop this plan, tell the authorities.’
‘But they are the authorities.’
‘Not all of them. I realise now, the government isn’t good or evil, it simply is. This organisation, whoever they are, they are evil, and they need to be stopped.’
‘So, we go to Zan, I know she’s not apart of this conspiracy.’
‘We’d be putting her in danger.’
‘What else can we do?’ He said coldly, ‘if we leave them to it, everyone is in danger. You heard that woman, she wants anarchy.’
‘So now you’re trying to protect the government?’
‘An apathetic government is better than a group that would sacrifice thousands of lives for their own means.’
‘When did you become a philosopher?’
‘I’ve always been the son of a philosopher,’ he said, his eyes darting to his father’s body once more. ‘The only thing is, what can we do to prove what’s happening?’
‘Oh, that’s easy,’ Mara smiled, she rolled up her sleeve revealing her wrist pad.
‘You recorded them?’ She nodded, ‘how did they not detect that your device was functional?’
‘I told you I’m resourceful, I modified my wrist, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve.’ Nuban nodded, smiled despite himself. He realised how calm and collected she was, in the face of danger she had recorded their enemy’s confessions, after seeing a man burnt to death, and his father killed, she had kept her cool. This was a strong woman, not one to be underestimated.
‘Ok, let’s do it.’ Moving quickly they were able to get back to the higher levels and Zan’s office. Mara was able to bypass one door with her wrist pad, explaining that getting through basic locks was easy enough, but higher security was well beyond her. She also was able to block the security sensors to stop from sending a signal back to the mainframe, ‘only for a few minutes,’ thus buying them some time before the authorities tracked them down.
Finally, they made it to Zan’s office. They buzzed the door with a wave and were admitted. Zan’s smile vanished as she saw the strain in their eyes.
‘What happened?’ She asked as they poured into her office, her two bags by the door, clearly about to leave.
They filled her in on what had happened, the conspiracy, Nuban’s father’s death, all of it. Listening to some of the recording that Mara had was enough to verify what they were saying.
Sitting for a moment, Zan collected herself.
‘It explains so much, the sudden take overs, transfers. They will succeed, there’s too much already in place. Even if we cancelled all contracts and got the right people on the jobs, it would be too late to secure the food and water for the Change.’
‘We can’t let them get away with it.’
‘No,’ she said defiantly, ‘we shan’t allow it. ‘Transfer that recording to me dear,’ she said to Mara, ‘I know who to send it to. It will be right across the network, public and private within the hour.’
‘Will that be enough?’
‘I don’t know, I mean this plan will be stopped, they will have to go into hiding. This woman you speak of, the one in the recording, I know her, more by reputation than personal experience, she will be a tough one to catch, this group wont give up on their plan to takeover after one failure though.’
‘Then give me enough time to catch her,’ Nuban said, standing up.
‘What?’ Both women said simultaneously.
‘Give me an hour before sending it, I’ll track her down, bring her in, dead if I have to,’ he seethed.
‘You can’t fight your way to this one dear, sorry,’ Zan shook her head sadly, ‘I understand your anger, but you just have to accept that we don’t know who to trust and we can’t cast too wide a net to get them all. We can at least stop their plan from succeeding.’
‘I want her,’ he said with determination.
‘Nuban,’ Mara put her hand on his arm, this seemed to get through to him, ‘you have to let her go, for now.’
‘She’s right my boy, I’ll buy you a few minutes to get your father and get out of here, then I’m sending it.’
‘What? We run?’
‘Yes, there’s no telling what they will do once the recording is released, it could shield us, but it will also make us prime targets.’
‘That means they could get you.’
‘It’s possible, but I’m not as fragile as I look, I’ll be ok.’ She smiled. ‘Now go, we can’t win the war here, but we can win a battle, now get into hiding, contact me once this has all blown over and we’ll see where we’re at.’
Reluctantly, Nuban allowed Mara to lead him away. Between her signal blocker and alarms not being raised from the recording just yet, they were able to sneak back to get his father’s body, then make the short journey out of the building. Once outside, eyes would be less likely to see them. By the time they reached their motel, grabbed the vehicle which groaned to life and were on their way out of the city, there was already a buzz of activity. Suddenly many unmarked government cars could be seen streaming towards the spire as they disappeared into the outer regions of the city.
‘Zan will be ok,’ Mara said, more for their own sake Nuban thought, there was no telling now. Everything had changed, nothing for the better. His naivety was gone, his future uncertain. The symbols over the spire, representing change seemed suddenly more apt.
They returned to Mara’s home, she ran in and grabbed a few things before returning to the craft.
‘What now?’ He asked.
‘Well, we can lay low for a few days, then come back here, see what’s happening,’ Mara said thoughtfully, ‘but they will be tracking us, it wont be safe. We could leave.’
‘Sure, we should stick together. I’ve got nothing here either now, I can sell a few things, we’ll have some money.’
‘Same, once I sell up we’ll be able to relocate, or buy our way back into the city.’
‘Or, we leave, hide out far from the reaches of these people.’
‘Survive,’ she said simply.
‘I could do that.’ Nuban was surprised to hear himself say that with such conviction, but a lot had changed in the past day. ‘But I really want to stop these people.’
They paused for a few moments, both thinking.
‘So what do you think?’ she asked finally.
‘I’ve got an idea, but first I need to bury my father.’
‘That’s a good idea, I’d like to see your village.’
‘It’s not much, but it was home.’ He said as he restarted the craft and they cruised slowly away from the city and the turmoil that was about to begin.
(C) T.W. Norrich ‘The Great Change’ 2017