Camille could hear the sirens of the Watchers’ cars patrolling, searching for citizens out after curfew.
Capital One was a city of bright neon lights, skyscrapers and screens with twenty-four hour propaganda. If one knew where to look, a different world could be found. Hidden bars and clubs, places where bets and fights took place. The most dangerous of these locations lay beneath the city in a place called the UnderMarket.
Camille had always hated the place, but tonight she really needed a drink.
There were all kinds of locations from which one could venture down below, but Camille took the closest, down a set of stairs that had been boarded up. She removed one of the loose planks and sneaked through.
The UnderMarket was buzzing at such a late hour. Cyborgs as well as humans moved up and down the hallways, talking amongst each other. The rules from upstairs didn’t apply down there.
Stall upon stall sold all kinds of things. Everything the government deemed illegal could be bought down there for the right price. In the real world, humans and cyborgs weren’t allowed to mix, but down below they did whatever pleased them. They drank and smoked their chemical cigars together, puffing out all kinds of colourful smoke.
At the end of the UnderMarket began the Pits; the fighting rings where Kalem and Terra had enjoyed to fight. Camille hated the place knowing that her son had spilled his blood over the floor.
Sitting down on a stool, she watched the bulky cyborg working behind the bar. It was busy, so it took him some time to recognise her. ‘What can I get ya?’ Hooky asked.
The man hadn’t changed. He still had yellow teeth, a big fat belly and a mechanical eye that made sounds as he fixed his gaze on Camille.
‘Your strongest liquor,’ Camille said, resting her elbows against the sticky surface of the counter.
Hooky put a glass with green liquid in front of her. Camille downed it down in one gulp.
‘How’s Terra doin’?’ Hooky asked, ignoring customers that were growing annoyed for having to wait.
‘She’s been kidnapped.’
Hooky’s face hardened.
‘I need your help,’ Camille continued. ‘The Government has her. We need to get her back, but I need people. An army.’
‘I knew she’d end up gettin’ into trouble.’
‘We need to fight the government.’
‘I’m totally serious.’ Camille snarled at a man next to her, his elbow shoving into her side.
‘Who’s gonna join ya?’
‘Well, for starters…You.’
‘What makes ya think I’d do that.’
Camille shrugged. ‘Thought you cared for the girl.’ She noticed the way his face creased with worry. ‘Look, she’ll die if we don’t help her. And I’m pretty sure you know people.’ She glanced around, then narrowed her eyes at Hooky.
‘I’m too old for this shit,’ he said, then turned and barked at someone screaming at him for a drink.
‘And Terra is too young for it.’
Hooky nodded. ‘I’ll see what I can do.’ He reached his arm across the counter, the inside of his wrist facing upwards. Camille rested her own against his. Each citizen had a chip implanted inside their arm, which they used to pay for things, as well as to exchange numbers and other stuff. ‘I’ll call ya when I get something,’ he said, then turned away from her.
‘You do that.’
The air had turned cold as soon as Camille stepped back into reality. The jumper she wore wasn’t warm enough, so she trotted all the way home, keeping away from patrols.
Camille’s battered townhouse appeared in view with its red side door. It was a quiet street in a cyborg neighbourhood. The buildings were rundown with a few small parks that once upon a time human children had probably played in.
Sighing, Camille opened the door and made her way down the narrow hallway, the lights so dim it was almost pitch black inside. The walls were covered in stains and the carpet had seen better days. Reluctantly, she made her way into the basement where the kitchen was.
Malcolm sat at the long wooden table, eating from a can. Sitting down beside him, she let her head drop against his arm.
‘It didn’t go well?’ Malcolm asked as he continued to eat. Camille stared at him, suddenly distracted by his Adam’s apple. She didn’t want to tell him that she hadn’t managed to convince their son to come home.
Dipping her fingers in Malcolm’s can of food, she scored some of the gooey mess into her mouth, causing Malcolm to pull a face. Camille laughed.
‘He won’t come home,’ she muttered after a while.
‘We knew he wouldn’t.’
‘But I hoped he would.’
Malcolm sighed. ‘Eric is off chasing Scarlet, Kalem is standing guard at the Government’s Headquarters, Curtis has locked himself in his room and the twins are going nuts.’ He rubbed his tired blue eyes. ‘Morgana is following Eric, and you’re doing the same with Kalem.’
‘Can you blame us?’
‘We need unity,’ he said. ‘Not whatever this is. We need everyone together.’
‘We need an army.’
‘Not exactly where I was going with this.’
Camille crossed her legs over the chair. ‘I know how we can do this.’
‘Not sure I want to know.’
‘Malcolm, I’m serious.’
’That’s precisely why I’m not sure I want to know.’
Camille rolled her eyes. She’d known Malcolm for most of her life. They had raised Kalem together as parents, even though they weren’t a couple. ‘
‘I’ve come up with a plan,’ she said.
‘You’re not gonna like it.’
Eric opened his eyes, moaning. Morgana was hovering over him, her blue eyes -so similar to Scarlet’s it was uncanny- shone with desperation and irritation.
‘What the hell happened?’ he asked. His head was pounding, his back ached and his body was full of cuts and bruises.
‘You decided to chase Scarlet,’ Morgana replied.
‘I remember that.’
‘Then she grabbed you and threw you over the edge of a building.’
‘Rather not remember that.’
‘And then I saved your stupid ass.’
‘Very thankful for that.’ Eric tried sitting up and noticed everything move from side to side. Touching his forehead, he found his fingers covered in blood. When his vision settled, he noticed Morgana’s strange posture. ‘What’s the matter with your arm?’
‘Shoulder came out of its socket,’ Morgana explained as she wiped dust from her clothes. No blood. Someone like her didn’t bleed.
The government had created seven perfect soldiers; immortal children that could not eat, drink or sleep. Dangerous and indestructible. Though, apparently, shoulders coming out of sockets was on a whole different level.
’Stop smirking, idiot,’Morgana said, breaking Eric away from his thoughts. ‘Come here and shove it back into place.’
‘I doubt shoving it will do the trick.’
‘Shut up. It hurts.’
Eric tried standing, but everything began spinning again. ‘Give me a minute,’ he muttered. Morgana cursed and swore, but gave him some time.
Glancing around, Eric tried to figure out where they were. The building was empty and it looked like an abandoned carpark. ‘Okay, come here,’ he said, finally able to stand. ‘Never done this before. So I might make this worse. Maybe I should have a smoke before, just to calm my nerves.’
‘Will you shut up?’ Morgana’s blue eyes slit with fury. Eric did as he was told and winced when the arm cracked back into place. Morgana yelped, then sighed with relief.
’Thanks,’ she whispered.
‘I think we’re even now.’
‘Not even close.’
Both X-Prototype and cyborg glanced around. ‘Might as well head home,’ Eric said, patting his pocket for his cigarettes. He managed to find one and light it.
‘You really need to quit,’ Morgana said, walking ahead.
‘I’ve decided something. Once this whole mess is cleared, Scarlet is back and Petra is dead, I’ll quit.’ Morgana snorted. ‘I’m serious,’ Eric added.
‘I’m sure you are.’ Morgana found a door which led to a staircase. They made their way down it slowly to street level and waited, making sure no Watchers passed by.
‘White doesn’t really suit you,’ Eric said, pointing at Morgana’s clothes.
‘Not the moment, Thorn.’
‘I’ve realised that nowadays it’s always the right moment.’
Morgana rolled her eyes, banged the door open and stepped out into the alleyway. ‘We need to find a way to get Scarlet back. I’m more than tired following you around while you chase her.’
‘You wound me.’
‘As awesome as it sounds to follow the great and amazing Eric Thorn around, it really isn’t.’
Eric chuckled. ‘Any suggestions on how to get her back?’
Eric threw the cigarette on the ground and stepped on it, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his trousers. Sirens were blaring far away, down a street where Watchers were probably terrorising some poor citizen. There was a slight mist, but he could see flashes of blue reflected on the walls across the city.
‘So, what do you suggest?’ Eric asked, following Morgana down another alley, the floor wet from rain. Morgana’s back was tense. Though it always seemed to be that way. Her curly blonde locks bounced as she moved, tempting Eric to pull at one of them teasingly.
Morgana abruptly stopped and turned to face him.
‘We need to go and get m brothers back,’ she said. ‘I think they can help.’