Maya’s calm faltered to impotent squirming. She’d seen enough entertainment vids to believe a civilian belonged on the floor in a gunfight. An Authority Officer, head to toe in blue armor and black, full-face helmet, rushed in. Moth lurched forward in a single stomp, driving his fist into the man’s chest. Splinters of hardened resin flaked around steel knuckles on impact with a sharp, crackling crunch. The armored figure vanished out the door in the blink of an eye. His flight ended with a heavy crash in the corridor outside. Moth leveled his pistol off and fired twice, rattling the windows.
Genna grabbed the tape around Maya’s ankles and yanked her off the bed like a slab of meat. She hit the floor on her back and lay still, staring at the ceiling while Genna used the bed for cover, aiming a smaller handgun at the doorway. Moth rushed into the hall with frightening speed for a man of his size.
“By order of the Authority, you are to surr―”
A splattering crunch followed the rapport of Moth’s gun. “Minimal contact. Only a few blueberries. Pack it up, we’re moving.”
An Ascendant drone whizzed past the window; the flickering orange light of muzzle flare filled the room as it fired on people outside.
The Asian man jumped over the bed and landed on his knees at Maya’s side. He glanced at her with a hollow smile. “That’s a cute kid. Nice choice. Didn’t you have a boy, though?”
Genna punched him in the side of the head, knocking him through a disintegrating nightstand. Maya kept herself as calm as she could manage given the continuous thunder of a gunfight in her home.
“Don’t you dare bring him up! He’s got nothing to do with this,” shouted Genna.
“Ouch.” The Asian man rubbed his jaw. “It’s got everything to do with Sam, doesn’t it? That’s why you want the Xenodril. You got some kinda righteous avenger thing going on.”
“Fuck you, Icarus. You’re high, as usual. Remember what happens to wax wings.” Genna dug her fingers into Maya’s arm and stuffed her headfirst into the bag like an object. “Make one noise, kid, and you’re never going to see your mother again. You don’t gotta be alive to get ransom; they just gotta think it.”
Maya went limp as the woman forced her into a fetal position and zipped the duffel closed. Her world became dark, save for a little speck of light from a pinhole in the bag on the peach-hued silk over her knees.
“Hey, that’s kind of messed up,” said Icarus.
Nylon tightened into a cocoon as the bag rose into the air.
“What is?” asked Genna.
“I was gonna say we should grab her favorite doll, you know, to maybe keep her calm or some shit. But look… there ain’t a single damn one in the room.”
“Maybe she doesn’t like dolls,” said Genna, her tone flat. “I didn’t.”
“Anything I say to that will get me punched again.”
Genna laughed. “You’re a wise man, for a doser.”
“Yeah but…” Icarus paused. “Still kinda messed. Ain’t even one toy.”
The bag swayed side to side, matching the motion of the woman’s brisk walk, continually bumping Maya against her back. She squirmed in a series of tiny movements, testing the painful tightness binding her hands and feet. Coupled with the confining enclosure, she didn’t have any room to move. She doubted she possessed the strength to break free and would need to cut the tape. With nothing to do at the moment but wait, she gave up struggling.
Maya’s head struck a hard surface, presumably her bedroom’s doorjamb or the one at the end of the corridor outside it. The next several gunshots she assumed came from Genna, closer and quieter than Moth’s hand cannon. Sliding glass doors hissed, and the patter of rain on the bag told her they ran across the deck where Mother’s helicopter sometimes landed. The alien whine of a drone circled far to the left.
“No, please!” a distant woman screamed.
Maya tried to yell through the tape as the weight of a body hit Genna from the left, crushing her into the woman.
“Gen, the pilot’s unarmed!” yelled Icarus. “We don’t need to kill her.”
“Outta my way! They’re all guilty.” Genna growled and grunted, struggling to get away from him.
Maya twitched at the heavy thud of a body striking the deck nearby. A distant female scream accompanied the scuff of boots and gunshots. The bag jostled with a run for a few strides, then someone grabbed the other side and jerked them to a halt, Maya bouncing up and down. She stilled with a shift in weight. Genna seemed to be dangling from the bag rather than carrying it.
“We ain’t got time for that bitch,” said Moth. “Killing one Authority tool ain’t gonna bring Sam back.”
A meaty thump came from somewhere close.
“Cute.” Moth chuckled. “Was that supposed to hurt?”
“Fuck you, Moth. Fuck you.” Genna thrust her body forward, yelling, “You’re lucky, bitch!” Two gunshots went off. “You keep running. Fuckin’ murderin’ cowards!”
A short period of silence followed, punctuated by the clatter of boots on the deck. The bag swung around and fell hard on a metal plate. Maya made no sound.
“Can you fly this thing?” Icarus asked.
“Yes,” said Genna and Moth in unison.
“Only to the ground,” Moth muttered. “Fuckers’ll track it. Still faster than the elevator.”
“Swarming with Authority.” A new voice, tinged with static, came from overhead.
“Head’s right.” Genna’s voice moved away. “No. I’ll take us to the edge of the Sanc.”
Someone climbed past the bag, and the whump of an ass hitting a seat above and behind followed. Whining turbines gathered strength, drowning out the noise of two doors sliding closed as the beating of rotors emerged. Gravity increased for several seconds before it fell off. Turns caused the unattended duffel to slide back and forth within what Maya assumed to be a small Authority helicopter. Her body suffered the mercy of whatever metal she bumped into. Every wriggle seemed to make the tape tighten, and the cocoon-like bag squished her legs into her chest.
The uncomfortable flight ended in a few minutes. Before Maya even realized they’d landed, Genna’s muttered cursing drew close and the nylon prison sailed into the air with a harsh yank. Maya braced for impact, but hit only the woman’s back. She kept quiet and waited, bag swaying as they ran for several minutes. A handful of hard turns and sudden stops caused short periods of floating followed by crashing into the woman carrying her. Muttering surrounded her, indistinct save for Moth’s deep timbre talking to someone over a comm about which tunnel to choose.
With only sound to go by, she had no idea where she’d been taken; it felt like she’d spent hours trapped inside a bag. Sudden weightlessness lasted barely a second before her body slapped into a hard surface; she couldn’t suppress a whimper.
“Hey, you just dropped a child, not a sack of gear,” said Icarus. “Didn’t you used to be a mother?”
The toe of a boot pressed lightly against Maya’s back, stepping close to the bag. The Asian man gurgled and gasped for breath.
Genna’s voice came from right above her, in a low, threatening tone. “Look, you drugged-out piece of shit. She’s not a child. She’s a Citizen―privileged, pampered, rich, comfortable, ain’t got no damn clue what the real world is like.”
Icarus wheezed and coughed. “Is that her fault? What would Sam say if he saw you hittin’ on a little girl?”
A body thudded into the ground close by; labored breathing rasped inches from Maya’s face.
“Bitch,” whispered a male voice.
The tape over her mouth prevented her from smiling
A scrape of heavy metal slid on paving in the distance. The bag went airborne again, soon squeezed against Genna by the narrow vertical shaft they descended. Echoes of boots on steel rungs, a thick, moldy smell, and total darkness, suggested a sewer. Maya hated feeling helpless. She couldn’t escape―yet―so she listened. Mother had always prided herself on her ability to find the advantage in any situation. Maya wondered how much of the trait she’d inherited.
Echoes of dripping water, squeaking rats, and boots sloshing in muck continued for quite a while with little conversation or hesitance. These people seemed to know where they were going now, without the constant need for guidance from the man on the other end of the radio.
Genna’s rhythmic gait stumbled with a blurted, “Fuck!”
The bag slipped off her shoulder and swung; Maya’s shins absorbed the brunt of impact with a hard post that rang out with a bell-like bong. The tape kept her scream inside.
“Keep a hand on my shoulder,” said Icarus. “You’re in my element now, sweet cheeks.”
“You call me that one more time, and I’ll make a necktie out of your guts.”
“You wanna hit of Vesper? Open your eyes to the dark, too.”
Genna lurched as though she shoved him. “Keep that shit to yourself. I’d sooner get implants.” She grumbled. “Why’d I get stuck carrying the brat?”
The clap of a hand on leather echoed into the distance.
Icarus chuckled. “Must be your nurturing motherly instinct.”
“Missed me,” he said. “Remember, I can see down here.”
“Gah!” he screamed. “Bitch. Great, now I’m fucking blind!”
“And I have a flashlight,” said Genna, a hint of smile in her voice.
Icarus’s muttered curses grew distant with an irregular sloshing gait. Maya pictured him staggering along, unable to see, with a hand on the wall. Light glinted in from pinholes in the nylon; too small to offer any view of the outside, they reminded her of stars.
“That sack is hangin’ like dead weight,” said Moth in a deadpan voice. “Make sure you didn’t kill her yet.”
Maya decided she did not like Moth in particular.
The bag dropped again, but this time settled gently on the ground. The zipper opened a few inches. Maya squinted at Genna’s blinding flashlight until the stink of mildew and rot caused an involuntary convulsion.
“You still alive?”