Evie

Evie woke, confused, groggy, panicked. She rolled over towards the middle of her bed, teetered on the edge of what was actually a sofa, grabbed to save herself, and just kept her balance with the help of a multitude of cushions. This wasn’t the first time she’d woken up, confused, surrounded by cushions. She must be at her sister’s place. Usually she had more of a hangover than this, she must be growing…
Reality crashed into her. Jack! Jack was missing. She’d been to Authority yesterday. She’d spoken for hours, it seemed like. Round and round, over and over the same events, probing, digging for something that wasn’t there. The detective had only really seemed interested in what she could tell him about the Resistance. And she could tell him next to nothing about the Resistance. And then she had come here.
Miriam! Evie scrambled up from the sofa, Sarah didn’t seem to be around. She scuttled across the carpet to the spare room. It was dark inside, shutters drawn, but she could hear the quiet, rapid breaths and gentle gurgles. Evie smiled to herself, closed her eyes an inhaled the soft smells of her sleeping daughter.
“I’ll find your…” she began to whisper.
“Daddy,” she heard Sarah say. Evie span around, it had come from the kitchen. Sarah was talking to someone. Well, someone, no guesses as to who. Evie was not in the mood to deal with her father. She rarely was but right now she really wasn’t. She crept back across the living room to listen at the door.
“You have to keep her inside,” she heard, “or I can do nothing for her. I can do nothing for you, either, unless you do as I have asked.”
Silence. Sarah never did have the nerve to stand up to him.
“Do you know where he is?” Sarah was saying. Of course he knows where he is. Nobody moves in this city without him knowing about it. Especially when someone is moved, forcibly, on his orders.
“Stay inside,” her father barked, impatiently. Evie knew what she needed to do. She had never been able to talk her sister round, never been able to get her to see their father for what he was. There was no reason that she could expect today to be any different. But she couldn’t risk being trapped inside all day. She just knew that if she hesitated, held back for even a second, then Jack was lost and she would never see him again.
She considered, momentarily, whether Miriam would be safer left with Sarah. Safer, undoubtedly, but not where she needed to be, at her mother’s side, in her mother’s arms. By the time Sarah heard the door slam, Evie was already at the top of the stairs, her baby girl still asleep in her arms, wrapped tight in every blanket she could scoop up from the cot.
“We’re free, little girl,” she whispered, as she took the stairs down two at a time. “We’re going to find him, I promise.”

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.

Evie

The first time that Evie had met Jack, they had both been drunk, and laying eyes on him for the first time was the only thing that Evie could clearly recall from that night. It was his first night in Toun; he’d arrived that morning for a job interview and was supposed to be on the last train home when Evie bumped into him in Emer’s. But the vagaries of the Toun public transport system, ironically the very public transport system that he’d interviewed to fix, had conspired to keep him trapped for the night. His luggage had gone missing and all he had were the clothes he stood up in.
But he wore them well. She’d spotted him from across the bar, face screwed up in puzzlement, hair untidily ruffled, that funny wave he did singularly failing to attract the bartender’s attention. She’d smiled, then he’d smiled back and then it was all over for her. They’d talked and drank through most of the night, she’d offered him somewhere to sleep, that had ended up being her bed, and by the time the following afternoon came around and they woke up, their fates were set. They were going to be together.
From that day she’d ceased to be Evie Chaguartay, months before she’d actually changed her name on her wedding day. She’d never been comfortable living in her father’s shadow, and now she had a reason to free herself. The Administration job she’d taken but never really needed had suddenly taken on a new importance. She had built herself a career, lived her life in the daylight and now they had a daughter who would never have to bear the weight of that name. She hadn’t just freed herself that night, she realised now.
In all that time she hadn’t so much as spoken to her father. She knew the day would come; she and Jack would often joke about the battles they would have when she eventually, inevitably, became Controller of Administration, but the Mayor of Toun rarely concerned himself with Junior Directors so for now she was left in peace. Peace. Until…
Evie shut down the thoughts that were forming in her head, the pictures that flashed before her eyes. It didn’t bear thinking about. It hadn’t been her choice, but she was here now. She would let the proper authority, which was to say Authority, investigate and find Jack. Then this would be over and they would move on. There was no point in speculating, she had nothing to go on, it all happened too fast.
“Can I get you anything, Mrs White?” The gruff inspector reentered the room. He was dressed in a dark shirt, set against the interview room that was so so white it hurt her eyes. Looking at him was some relief, for a moment.
“No,” she said, shaking her head. She indicated the ill fitting but admittedly warm jumpsuit that she had been given to wear. “I’m fine. Thank you.”
“That’s perfectly all right,” went on the inspector, “but please say if you change your mind. You’re here to help us, Mrs White, and we want you to feel comfortable.”
“Evie, please,” she asked.
“Evie,” repeated the inspector. “Evie, is your daughter…” he lifted the cover of the file that he’d carried into the room with him, “…Miriam… Is Miriam being cared for?”
Evie nodded, vigorously. Miriam was with her sister. It was closer to her dad than she would prefer, but Sarah was sensible enough, and she certainly knew how Evie felt. In general, as well as about this. She shut down those thoughts again.
“Yes, yes she’s fine,” she mumbled. “I’m sorry, it’s all been a bit…”
“You’ve had a difficult day.” The inspector smiled. He was gruff, but his eyes suggested a kindness that reassured Evie that she wasn’t caught in the machine just yet. I’ll have to remember you, Inspector Legrange, she thought. Just in case. She caught herself thinking about work. What was that? Was it a defence mechanism? Because if it wasn’t then this wasn’t the appropriate time and she needed to get her priorities straight.
“My husband is missing, inspector,” she went on. “They… someone… some people came to our house, armed. They burst in, firing shots. We hid. They took him. I want you to find him.”
“Of course, Mrs… Evie.” Legrange put out what he probably thought was a reassuring hand. “We will do everything we can to find your husband. Now, it’s been a tough day, and it may be tricky to recall everything that has happened clearly. I often find it helps to work backwards, in situations like this. From now. So, Evie, can you tell me a bit about how you got to us, here, at Authority? I believe you were brought here by a member of the Resistance?”

Legrange

Borate’s office was plastered in campaign posters. It wasn’t exactly making Legrange’s job easier, having the Chief of Authority challenge the very man that the Resistance existed to resist. But Chief Gerstley Borate seemed to be the only man in Toun who Mayor Chaguartay wasn’t several steps in front of, and the move did seem to have unsettled him. Authority reform, outlawing Black Knights, Tree preservation… none of these were usual platforms for Chaguartay and yet all were part of his manifesto once Borate had announced his candidature. Not that it appeared to be making a difference to the Resistance, who were as determined as ever to resist.
Legrange looked around.
“I assume I’m not here to talk politics?” He didn’t want to talk politics. Borate was, as far as Legrange was now concerned, a dead man, both metaphorically and soon, probably, literally. Legrange was not an ideologue.
“No, I’ll keep it brief,” explained Borate, leaning far back in his seat. His brow was slick, his usually robustly glowing skin pasty, his dark hair slicked to his scalp. He didn’t look well. “I seem to be a busy man,” he chuckled, without humour.
Legrange nodded. He didn’t want to catch whatever his boss had contracted. Keeping it brief was fine with him, and he didn’t need to extend the encounter with unnecessary words. Borate lifted up a file, an actual, physical, cardboard folder, and tossed it across the desk towards Legrange. Interesting.
“Missing person,” he said, simply. “Jack White. Only been in Toun three years, came from… somewhere. It’s probably in the file. Married, one kid already. Seems to like it here. We have his wife here for you to talk to. Seems like there may have been some kind of altercation, which she claims involved other parties. You need to get to the bottom of that and, if it’s true, who those other parties might be.”
Seemed simple enough but… Legrange didn’t need another distraction. He was good enough at distracting himself.
“Who’s the Cadet?” he asked, wracking his brains for the most useless junior member of Population. “Rumston? Stolzinger?”
“No, no cadets,” Borate shook his head. “Too sensitive.”
“Sensitive?” Legrange was intrigued. “So who has spoken to her?”
“Me,” replied Borate. “Only me.”
He shook his head again. Legrange scratched his. He was intrigued, that was an unorthodox turn of events, but he still didn’t want the case.
“Why isn’t this going to Population?” he asked. “I don’t see how this concerns Resistance.”
“She was brought in by a Resistance Agent,” explained Borate. This didn’t, actually, explain very much.
“Brought in by a Resistance Agent?” asked Legrange. “Are you sure?”
“I got the recs checked,” Borate confirmed. “Definitely Resistance. An Agent Jones.”
This made more sense. Agent Jones again.
“OK, so you want me to ascertain the extent of Resistance involvement in the disappearance of this Jack White?”
Legrange lifted the file and opened it. The front sheet had a pic attached to it. Young woman, blonde, attractive. Slightly familiar.
“Evandra White, Junior Director in Administration,” he read. He tossed the file back on the desk. “OK, I’ll talk to her. I need to find out more about Agent Jones. She might be helpful. I still don’t get, though…” He indicated the file, balanced precariously on the edge of the desk. “Why the secrecy? I’ve not seen an actual file in years.”
“Evandra White,” repeated Borate, rubbing his pasty face, looking more concerned than Legrange had ever seen the Chief look before. “Nee Chaguartay.”
Evie Chaguartay! Suddenly Legrange understood.

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.”