Raine broke into a run towards the administrative tower. She could make out the immense, windowless central pillar through the frame of neglected skyscrapers which nearly touched the underside of the Mezzanine plate. The street was a straight shot all the way there, but she doubted that she would make it if she went that way.
The Ophanim. Metatron’s surveillance system.
They were like ghosts, never seen. Metatron’s other top agents could be spotted from time to time- the Cherubim, the mindless, hulking bruisers that guarded government buildings. From time to time, rumors would spread of someone catching a glimpse of one of the Seraphim, though that person could never be found for comment. Raine had chased that lead too many times to be optimistic about their fate. But the Ophanim? No one saw them. Their logo was plastered across billboards and government buildings- a burning wheel, studded with unblinking eyes.
She could feel the gaze of the Ophanim on her, an instinct born of years of deception. As much paranoia as caution. She swept her senses through a range of frequencies, scanning for anything out of place, and somewhere in the terahertz band, the street ahead of her lit up. She could see the gaze of the Ophanim: they used T-rays to search for her, but she could see that range of frequencies as well as they could.
She had no doubt they were simulating her, predicting her every move. Solid intel suggested that the Ophanim could tap into the massive processing power of the administrative tower to run simulations of any citizen’s mind based on memory backups and past behavior. They would know her plans before she did.
Raine stopped and dodged into an alley. The crumbling buildings of the ground level pressed close together, even in the marginally more prosperous areas around the lifts.
Safe for now, or as safe as I can get. It’s a good thing the ground level doesn’t have as much surveillance, but no matter where I go, they’ll be waiting.
Her body, the Raindrop Classic, had no smell, no fingerprints, no oil secretions. She was nondescript to the extreme- in a crowd, she would be nigh impossible to find. She had avoided the markets before, but now…
Maybe it’s time to pay the markets a visit.
She pulled up a map and calculated the fastest route to the nearest of the sunbeam markets, the bazaars that had formed around the rare rays of light that found their way through the upper plates.
That won’t work, she realized. They have to know I’ll go for the market, and this is the fastest route. I can’t go that way- but what alternative do I have?
Raine pulled out the trinket Rokuro had given her before she’d left the hideout. A small sphere, cool to the touch, trailing an interfacing cable.
Not wireless? What is this?
It wasn’t until she plugged it into the interfacing port on the side of her wrist that she realized what it was. A quantum randomizer. It generated truly random numbers; not influenced by any outside agency. Impossible to find a pattern, impossible to predict. The longer she let it run, the less predictable she would become, as it would introduce an element that the Ophanim couldn’t control. Needless to say, they were very illegal.
She powered it up and let a stream of numbers pour through her consciousness, searching through them for associations with her memories. This free association would change her thought patterns from those the Ophanim expected, at least that was the theory.
- Her birthday. On her last birthday, Vaun had made her a cake with real flour. Another thirty thousand cycles elapsed in the blink of an eye.
Nothing I can use there.
- Her locker combination in high school. After the first time it had been broken into, she never used it again. She’d hated that school, but it was better than home. It was where she had met Vaun and the others who would be the founding members of the Common Man Coalition many years later.
Nothing there either.
A flicker of terahertz light caught her eye through the wall of the building she crouched behind.
Wondering why you haven’t caught me yet? Or just biding your time?
The Ophanim on the rooftop was sweeping down the street, searching for her hiding place.
If they’re simulating me, they know I can see the T-rays, she realized. It doesn’t need to look at me to know I’m here. It’s trying to flush me out.
Raine powered down the randomizer.
I hope that’s enough, because I’m out of time.
Raine ran up the wall of the building adjacent to her, pads on the soles of her feet and palms adhering to the bricks.
The Terahertz ray swept over the ground of the alleyway, right on cue, then started to creep up the wall she clung to. Raine pushed off towards the adjacent wall and flipped herself around with the coordination boost her muscular implants afforded her. She started to pull herself up-
She stopped, hanging from the wall by her fingertips.
It must know. It must be a trap.
The Ophanim hadn’t moved. The T-Ray was still sweeping the same area.
She started to release her fingers to drop to the street below, then hesitated.
The image flashed through her mind faster than she could process it.
Junction 96. What is that? The randomizer must have jogged a memory.
The memory started to come back to her. In the tunnels below the city, she had found something strange. She always thought the enemy was above them on the Terrace plate with the wealthy hyper-elite, but she’d stumbled upon… something.
What was it?
Something important. She racked her memory for details and found… nothing. An empty set. She found a memory location with the right timestamp, but no data beyond what she’d already remembered.
Chikushō! Damn Metatron! She thought. She must have erased the memories when she captured me…but I remember enough. The sub-surface. Nearest entrance is… she called up the map again, -five blocks from here. I’ll never make it- Raine stopped herself. But either I walk right into a trap, or I stay right here until they snatch me up. Damn this indecision. I’ll never get anywhere if I don’t go for it.
Raine climbed up to the top of the building, hoping its lower height would keep her out of sight of the Ophanim. She broke into a run along the edge of the building, not holding back this time. The Ophanim reacted immediately, and the T-Ray beam opened up, shining in all directions.
Didn’t expect that, did you? Can’t simulate me now. Good.
Raine dived off the building and onto the next, rolling to her feet and continuing without a break in stride. Behind her, she heard footsteps picking up. Loud, unsubtle, heavy.
She put on another burst of speed, exceeding maximum baseline human running speed in three easy strides. Buildings blurred past and the wind whipped at her hair.
But the Cherubim are faster.
Even above the rushing wind she was able to make out the sound of footsteps behind her, and something else, an odd buzz that she was barely able to pick up, even with her heightened senses.
Good thing I only needed to make it this far.
She leapt off the building, the last one before the entrance to the subsurface. When she hit the ground, it hurt.
Don’t have time to do this painlessly.
Raine slapped her hand down on the circular manhole cover and used the same pads that let her climb the wall to pull the cover up off the entrance. She threw it aside and dropped down into the sublevel.
That won’t slow them down long. The tiny island of light in which she stood darkened as the light from above was blocked by the body of one of the Cherubim. It stared down at her, framed by light, casting its shadow down on her.