Duct tape and a set of cheap foam earplugs had made the journey an unsettling affair which left Randolph with an aching back and a migraine instead of a plan to escape.
Another plan. She had survived the last attempt by seconds after Belize stopped being a paradise and became another place to run from. Five years of evasion, and the money was ebbing away. Her first sight was the scuffed toes of her heels and she wriggled her toes inside them to get blood circulating. Her left eyebrow stung like a rejection, and when she touched it, there was another sizzling burst of pain and her fingertip was wet with blood. She had lost a chunk of flesh from the tape but he put it down to incompetence over malice.
Mad science and optimism went hand in hand.
She tested the crumbling plaster with her fingers, finding solace in the flaking dust which scoured her fingers and she wiped her hand on her thigh. The ceiling was stained, yellowing swirls like a chromatographic portrait of dilapidation. A few years ago, they had built a Perspex cell with radio frequency tags embedded into the floors and walls but she had escaped it after three months.
The door was plate steel without a lock mechanism on the inside. Rachel examined the frame and the plasterwork around the doors, stood on her toes to examine the vent and sagged down in frustration. She checked herself, disappointed with the thoroughness of her rendition. They had re moved the micro-laser embedded under her left index finger along with gel dispenser under her thumbnail which produced hallucinations. She tried subvocal commands to activate her defence system, but the silence mocked her. Rachel had no weapons or tools past her mind but that was enough.
She sat back down, crossed her legs and closed her eyes. Meditation was not a spiritual affront but an opportunity to go inside herself.
When she emerged from mediation, there were five possible methods of escape. Four included fatalities but murder solved problems.
She was not expecting the young woman sat there in front of her. Her hair was black, tied back in a clumsy plait with alabaster skin and wide, gleaming eyes and she wore a faded Jane’s Addiction t-shirt as she crouched against the wall by the door. She stared at Rachel with a cold, hard look she knew from countless agencies, local and federal.
‘So they’re sending children to question me?’ Rachel said.
The woman’s mouth went up at the corners and she stood up. She reached and tossed the plait over her shoulder, folded her arms across her chest and stared at her.
‘If you’re trying to read my mind, you’re wasting your time. I invented sub conscious defence protocols.’
The woman shook her head and sighed with cold amusement and warm disappointment.
‘No, I’m not interested in your thoughts.’
Rachel laughed and waved the woman off. She narrowed her eyes against the tightness building behind her eyes.
‘My idle thoughts have brought down governments. Everyone’s interested.’
The woman shrugged her shoulders and scratched her right forearm.
‘Not me. I’m just waiting.’
Rachel rolled her eyes and laughed, a bright sound awash with cruelty and grandeur.
‘Oh dear, you’re so uninformed this is insulting. Don’t you know who I am?’ she said.
The woman bent forwards at the waist, rested her palms on her knees and raised her eyebrows.
‘I was about to ask you the same question.’
Rachel’s headache had shifted like it was punching a way out through her forehead. The woman turned around and lifted the sleeve of her t-shirt, showing a tattoo A894. Thick black ink, a utilitarian design which still gleamed against her pale skin. Rachel swallowed and tasted vomit on her tongue, hot and thick before she swallowed and struggled not to gag.
‘I thought I’d sterilised the last batch of you. Still, it’s always good to see my work out in the world.’
Her thoughts warped in the increasing pressure in her skull.
‘You don’t remember me?’ the woman said.
Rachel went to speak but her stomach lurched and the inside of her head rung with a vicious note of anguish.
‘No. You were batches. Like a tray of cookies.’
A894 rubbed her upper arm and raised her eyebrows as she walked over.
‘It’s important you remember me. Us.’
Rachel sniffed and tried to sit up but her head blazed with pain. Her body throbbed with poisonous exhaustion and she slumped against the wall. She tried to speak, but the words were thick, slow and sticking to her teeth like old gum.
‘You were tools.’ She said.
A894 nodded in agreement.
‘Yes, we were.’ She said.
Rachel could not place the designation. The last batch had been her finest hour, Z767 had generated enough kinetic energy to collapse a DEA office on her and walked away from the rubble without a scratch. Z682 hadassassinated the police commissioners of six major cities before she was shot. A series had been useful, but a stepping stone rather than the destination itself. Her memories were shelter from the chaos of a life of evasion. Thinking hurt.
She tried to speak but a gout of vomit dripped down her chin and she leaned over, brought everything up in a twisted, barbed rush which splashed to the ground. She could not raise her head without more pain. The clip of footsteps felt distant and the hand at her forehead made her flinch.
‘I was carbon monoxide molecules and dioxins fused to fetal tissue and fed through an atom smasher.’
Rachel reached inside her thoughts, connected to process over outcome and remembered.
Carbon monoxide. Dioxins.
‘Ah, Abigail.’ She said.
Her words were soft, slurred and confused as she tried to get to her feet but her body betrayed her and she collapsed back down again.
Abigail came over, brushed her fingers through the meat of Rachel’s cheek and passed through it. Rachel swiped at her but her arm passed through Abigail like she were a hallucination. Rachel collapsed as a raw tide of agony pushed her to the concrete floor.
She rolled onto her side and looked up as Abigail stood over her.
‘Now you remember me.’ Abigail said.
Rachel tried to speak but her failing senses took her down hard into herself. Her vision blurred at the edges and when Abigail emittedtendrils of smoke from her arms and hair.
The tendrils slipped towards the door behind her, taking more of her substance with her as she slipped through the frame until there was nothing left. Rachel seized up as a horrific wrenching sensation took the last of her will from her and she let go, watching the tears hang suspended in the air, before diving into the blackness of oblivion with the gift of a fitting ending.
Abigail reformed on the other side of the door. She fell into David’s embrace and rested her lips on his A214 tattoo and wept.