Davis ran as fast as he could, the small box tucked close under his arm. He ignored the fact that he was overheating. It had been stupid to wear a jacket.
He didn’t even stop to wick the sweat away from his eyes. In this heat it would be back in seconds. And he didn’t have time. He needed to catch this train.
“Not even five minutes late,” Harry had insisted, “Or you’ll be out of a job!”
“Coming through!” Davis pushed his way through the crowd. He could hear the alarm dinging to let passengers know that the doors would be closing soon.
A cheerful female voice came on over the loudspeaker. “Train 401 is near capacity. Ten more passenger seats available.”
Davis barreled down the escalator.
“Five more seats available…”
He jumped over a rolling briefcase crossing his path.
“Three more seats available…”
With one last burst of energy, Davis launched himself through a group of tourists and squeezed through the doors just as they began to close. One woman slipped in behind him before the doors shut. The tourists looked perturbed.
“Passengers, please be seated,” The bright voice came on through the speakers, “We are preparing to embark. Thank you for traveling Prime Rail.”
Davis scanned his ID to pay his fare and settled into the nearest open seat.
He wasn’t about to lose this job, not yet anyway.
Working for a courier service wasn’t his idea of a dream job, but it kept him out of his parents’ basement. Harry didn’t trust him with the important clients, so he mostly ran small time packages that needed same-day delivery. “The more they pay, the better the service.” That was Harry’s mantra. Customers deserved the best, and in his eyes, Davis was less than the best.
But he did get to see a lot of the city.
He looked down at the address on the little box in his hands. It was for a Stephen Amherst.
1313 Enlightenment Road. Must have been someone’s idea of a joke. The part of town he was headed to was anything but enlightened.
What was in this thing anyway? Davis shook the box carefully. He couldn’t hear anything move inside of it. At least that meant it probably wasn’t broken.
The overly upbeat loudspeaker voice informed him it was time to get going. “We are now arriving at Westport Plaza. Thank you for traveling Prime Rail.”
He joined the growing group in front of the sliding doors as the train slowed to a stop. When the doors opened, they piled onto the platform and dissipated into the crowd of waiting commuters. Davis hopped onto the moving walkway headed toward Enlightenment Road. Once on board, he leaned back and relaxed. People hurried past him, but he still had plenty of time. He wouldn’t be late.
The people around him grew fewer and fewer until he was nearly alone. A warning bell went off in his head, the same one that always went off when he was alone in public.
He never knew why, but he always felt safer in crowds. He stopped lounging and walked to his exit.
The escalator let him off right at the corner of Parker and Enlightenment. The neighborhood was quiet this time of day, too late for rush hour but too early for the clubs and such to start opening. Every few yards or so someone loitered on a corner or outside a storefront, but mostly he was alone.
He counted the steps to 1313.
It was a café, a small basement place that looked like it was empty on even on its best days. Three people occupied the room, including himself. A woman sat at a table, and an older man on his cellphone stood behind the counter.
The woman looked familiar. It was the woman who’d gotten on the train behind him. He might not be good at much, but he was good with faces. It was definitely the same woman. What were the odds?
Davis cleared his throat. “Delivery. Stephen Amherst?”
The man behind the counter looked up. “That’s me. You from the courier service?”
“Yes, sir.” Davis pulled his tablet out of his pocket. “Please sign here.”
“Have any trouble finding us?” Amherst scrawled his signature on the screen.
Davis shook his head. “Not my first delivery out here.”
When he’d checked that the signature had gone through, he nodded to Mr. Amherst. “Have a good evening.”
The evening outside was cool, a welcome change from the unseasonably warm day. Davis relished the refreshing breeze, but a irritating tingling at the back of his neck spurred him to get moving. There was no one out here. He couldn’t be here for too long.
He stuffed his hands into his pockets and headed toward the train station. It didn’t take long before he noticed footsteps behind him.
The tingling turned into scraping. He fought the urge to run. People walked behind other people all the time.
The footsteps got a little closer, faster. Davis felt his pulse quicken. He dodged into an alley in time for a couple to pass by him. They went on their way without even noticing him.
He laughed at himself. No one was after him. He was way too paranoid. He turned back onto the sidewalk.
A flash of grey crossed in front of him and lodged in his mouth. Davis’ hands flew to his head as a force pulled him backward, deeper into the alley. He tried to scream, but he was stifled as someone pushed him to the ground and proceeded to tie him up. He was thrown up against a wall and an arm pushed into his chest.
The man spoke to him. “00010. Experiment 442. Title and directive.”
He was wearing a trench coat. The man relaxed his hold on Davis only slightly, not enough for him to get away.
“I said title and directive. He’s unresponsive.” The man spoke over his shoulder and a woman came into view.
Not just any woman.
The woman from the train. The woman from the café. What had he just delivered?
She put a hand on the man’s arm. “Careful. Don’t damage him.”
Too late for that, Davis thought. His ribs were probably broken. But what was this man talking about?
“Fine.” Trench Coat pulled something from his coat with his free arm. Davis’ eyes widened. It was a gun. Trench Coat pressed it to his head.
Davis squirmed. His heart beat so fast he couldn’t distinguish between pulses. There was no way out.
“He won’t respond. Should I just turn him off?”
The train woman pursed her lips. “It’s harder to get through in sleep mode.”
“But can you do it?”
Davis held his breath. He was going to die.
What would they tell his family? Harry was totally going to fire him.
“Alright, then. Lights out.” Trench Coat pulled the trigger. The world went black.
Agent Marlin 37 unplugged the cord behind the cyborg’s ear. “I think we’ve got everything we’re going to get from this one.”
Dingo 38 glanced back from his lookout post. “Is it one of his?”
37 gave a slight nod. “Series B, Model… 29.”
“What’s he activated for?”
“I couldn’t find a directive off the bat. I’ll have to dig deeper back at HQ.”
“They’re getting harder to distinguish. We’re lucky we found him.” 38 was looking out at the road again.
37 bent down and closed the cyborg’s access port. “Hiding in the city makes it easier, but I don’t think it was luck. Looks like B29 here wanted to be found. The real question is why.”
“What do we do with him? Should we reactivate him here?”
“He’s a Code Black. Call in for pickup.” 37 tucked her tablet into her bag. It was going to be a long night.