Legrange

The sky was just beginning to grey into morning. Legrange sat alone, in his office on the fourteenth floor of the Authority building. He didn’t use his office for much, preferring to work where there was noise and activity, just for reprimanding Cadets and, as now, for thinking. He stared out across the city, taking none of it in, his mind a whirl of competing thoughts and theories. He needed to thin all of this down, get some focus.

“Leetle HaffHaff? Ease you mind?” he muttered, mimicking the street dealers. If he really was looking for a handful of White Nights it would be easy enough to swipe some from Evidence. He pulled open the lower drawer in his desk and pulled out a bottle of clear liquid. He wasn’t one for chemicals. He poured himself a large drink into the paper coffee cup that sat to his right. The liquid went cloudy and brown as it mixed with the dregs. Hobo’s Screwdriver. He took a gulp, then winced, then took another, winced a bit less, took a third and then settled back in his chair with his feet on the desk.

Legrange sighed.

“So, Mrs White,” he said to the ceiling. Mrs Evandra White hadn’t been particularly helpful when it came to the Resistance, she hadn’t even been certain that was who she’d met in the aftermath of the explosion. She’d been lucky. Stumbling into the arms of Resistance operatives and asking to be taken to Authority didn’t usually result in being taken to Authority. It was more likely to result in your body being dumped in The Alleys.

Apart from that, nothing. Well… Legrange flipped open the brown leather wallet in his hand for the seventieth time, glanced again at the Citizen’s License inside, then flipped it closed again. He shook his head. I don’t get it.

Evie White had been at work, in the early evening, in the Administration building, when she’d received a message on her ComN. It was text only and told her to check under her desk. A Com unit – a customised ComL. She knew enough to know what that meant – Black Knights. It bipped in her hand and the voice at the other end told her that, if she wanted to see her husband again, she had to go to a specific flat in one of the Blocks. She had called her sister to beg her to collect her daughter from childcare and immediately left for the Blocks. She had travelled on foot as the time of day meant that she would have waited hours for a cab. She had been concerned about being followed, but was certain that she hadn’t been. On arrival, the flat was open. It had been filled with a strange, weblike substance that she struggled to describe and had not had time to examine, before the flat exploded. She had stumbled out and into the arms of Agent Jones, miraculously unharmed and clutching the wallet that Legrange held in his hand. He flipped in open again, flipped it closed again.

He’d sent James to the location, with a team, but the flat had been bare, gutted. They had taken a sample of the web, which was now in the lab. Legrange didn’t know what to make of that. He took a drink. It turned out that it wasn’t really helping him think, but it was making him feel better. He sighed, flipped the wallet open one more time, took in the details one more time. It didn’t matter how many times he saw them, he still didn’t believe his eyes.

This belongs to a man who doesn’t exist. How had it been there? How did it exist? He read the name again. BJORN BARLOW. The man who Sergey made up, the decoy they’d provided to waste Resistance time. Did they know? Was this a message? Legrange drained his drink. The involvement of Chaguartay’s daughter troubled him. Especially this daughter. If you’d wanted to get to the Mayor on a personal level, why target the daughter he never spoke to? Especially via her blowin husband?

It didn’t fit. It didn’t feel like Resistance. Unless the explanation was Jones. A new Agent, shaking things up? Was Toshock losing her grip? Legrange groaned. Can’t think any more. He drained his drink and, as dawn poured over the cityscape before him, he allowed himself to drift off to sleep.

Jones

“Kap? Kap?”
The ComH crackled. The was no response. Agent Jones smacked the communications unit’s earpiece~with her glove.
“Kap?”

Crackle.

She would have to go it alone. She stepped out of the service elevator and flattened herself against the concrete wall. A gust of air whistled down the corridor blowing dust and dead leaves into her face. There was a storm kicking up outside. She needed to get in and out quickly or she’d never get away. Jones flicked up the screen on the Com.
“Profile,” she barked.
The unit bleeped cooperatively, and showed her the face of a clean-shaven, dark haired, apparently young man, although it was always hard to tell when the image was made up of green pixels.

BJORN BARLOW
NO FURTHER INFORMATION AVAILABLE

She read the meagre information that passed for a profile. Intelligence was evidently lacking on this one. It was Kap’s lead, as well, and now he’d gone AWOL on her.
“Kap?” She tried again.

Crackle.

She pushed herself off the wall and leaned over to the corner in front of her. She peered down. Grey, concrete nothing, stretching all the way down to the steel door at the far end. It was more than a hundred feet, maybe two. She checked in her belt. The flash bomb wouldn’t roll that far. If she threw it, it would probably bounce off. She would have to get closer. That wasn’t feeling very comfortable, with this little cover.
She flattened herself against the next wall, pushing her back hard against it, willing it to consume her, hide her. Why was this so nerve wracking? She knew nothing about this target. Maybe there was nothing to be worried about. Maybe he was crack ninja material. Sweat ran into her eyes. She blinked it away.
The Com burst into life.
“Jones?” Came the voice. Faint. Panicked? Crackling.
“Kap?” She was flooded with relief. Her eyes welled up. She told herself it was more sweat.
“Jones, where the fuck are you?”
That was better, that was the Kap she was used to.
“I’m outside the target’s front door,” she whispered, hoping the mic would pick it up. “Where the fuck have you been?”
“Touché. But get out of there.”

What?

Something was up. Something was wrong with Kap, he wasn’t saying something that she needed to know. Or he was saying something that she needed to ignore…
“Didn’t get that Kap. Any further instructions?” She asked.
“Get out!” Kap screamed. “Get out now!”
Jones opened her mouth to protest.
The steel door slammed open with a crash. Behind it, the flat exploded. The Com went dead.
Agent Jones lowered her arms from her head, around which she’d wrapped them to protect herself from the shards of flying glass and metal from the explosion. The floor was littered with glittering debris and a dust was settling. Through the now open doorway there seemed to be smoke hanging inside the flat. She stood up from the crouch she’d cowered into and tentatively approached.
The smoke was thick and not flowing the way she would expect. It was eerie, as if the interior of the flat was frozen in time. Come to think of it, everything on her side of the doorway was so silent and still that maybe time had stopped for everyone. She took another few steps forward.
It wasn’t smoke. It was too dense, too solid, like a veil or a mesh or a… web. It was. Thick sheets of, presumably, spider web hanging from the doorframe and strung behind, making it hard to see much further than a few feet into the hallway. Agent Jones stopped in her tracks.
How did anywhere get like that? There couldn’t be any people inside, certainly not the person she was expecting to find in there. And there had to be spiders. Who knew how many to spin that amount of web? Or spider. So how big would it have to be to…
Agent Jones shuddered. She should find a functioning Com, check in with Kap. There was a P in the stairwell, she could hack that to create a secure channel. If the target wasn’t in there then there was no point in going in, was there? Except she needed to search the place, there might be something that would point to where he was now. Except that trail would now be so cold as to be useless? She wasn’t in the mood to argue with Kap, she had to get a plan straight and try to railroad him.
There was some movement in the veil. Jones took a step back. She raised her weapon and took a stance. Something was coming through, the web bulged and stretched as it pushed from the inside of the flat.
“I’m armed,” she shouted. “Come out slowly, with your hands up.”
She trailed off. Who was she shouting to? A giant spider? Which hands was it going to put up?
The silence was bearing in on her now. She licked a bead of sweat from her upper lip. The web tore.
It was a young woman. She came out slowly, as instructed, with her hands up.
Jones was flabbergasted. She lifted her helmet from her head. She shouldn’t be too careless, but the look of confusion and hesitance on the face of the woman spoke to her gut and told her that there was no threat here. Compared to the stale air that had been circulating inside her armour, the air tasted cold and sweet. She breathed it in, it helped to counter the nausea she felt from too much adrenaline sloshing about her bloodstream.
“Who are you?” she asked. “What were you… Is there anyone else in there?”
The woman shook her head. Her blonde hair was tangled with web and she seemed to be wearing rags that hung indecently from her slight frame.
She opened her mouth and said something, but her voice was too weak for Jones to hear. She took a step towards her, holding out a hand as the stranger tottered.
Suddenly she fell, just as Jones came within arms reach, and the soldier caught her in her arms and lowered her gently.
“Evie,” the woman whispered. “My name is Evie. I need to talk to Authority.”