Pressure on her face dragged Maya out of sleep. Two bright green spots hovered over her; an enormous metal hand covered her mouth and pinched her cheeks. The scent of a sweating man mixed with industrial chemicals flooded her nostrils. She let off a pitiful, muffled scream and kicked through her blankets at a chest rigid enough to hurt her toes.
A gun slid out of the darkness; its icy barrel against her forehead pushed her skull into the pillow as the green eye spots shrank with a faint electronic whirr.
“Be still. One sound, you die.” His breath smelled like rotting meat.
Maya attempted to nod, but couldn’t move her head.
“Blink twice if you understand.”
She did. The man removed his giant hand from her face. He leaned up and away, keeping his weapon aimed at her. Room lights came on; his eyes shifted color, becoming yellow. His great dark-blue arms, bigger around than her chest, appeared metal, as if hundreds of small interlocking ingots had flown together in a devouring plaque that advanced well over his shoulders and shrouded the sides of his head. The interface between steel and skin resembled the teeth of a gear. More guns peeked from the folds of a long military-style coat. At her stare, mechanical lens-eyes jutting an inch out from his head clicked and narrowed further. His broad face and wide nose were similar in hue to her skin: creamed coffee. Not a trace of humanity remained in his glare.
Maya had no doubt this man could kill her.
A woman, younger than Mother but not by much, slipped past him. His bulk made her seem like a child. Black fatigue pants swooshed as she cleared the end of the bed in two strides. Thick dreadlocks hung down to her belt, studded with trinkets, beads, and wooden rings. She wore a nylon harness with a pair of handguns, several cases, and two silver grenades over an olive-drab tank top. A long-sleeved camouflage shirt draped loose and unbuttoned over everything, sleeves rolled up to the forearm. The woman scowled at Maya with contempt, a look dire enough to make her raise an arm to protect her face.
“Don’t give me that shit,” grumbled the woman. She bent forward to yank the blankets away from Maya. “You’re a Citizen; I ain’t gonna feel no sorry for you.”
“How we lookin’?” the huge man asked no one. Seconds later, he grinned. “Sounds good.”
The woman’s loose outer shirt sagged open as she leaned forward, grabbed a handful of Maya’s hair, and held her still for a brief but disdainful stare. “Roll over, hands behind you.”
Maya did as instructed, and didn’t move despite the creak of unwinding tape. She winced but kept quiet while the woman crushed her wrists together and cinched them with the sticky plasticized ribbon. A painful grip about the ribs swung her perpendicular to the bed. Maya whimpered as the angry woman gathered her legs together and wound more tape about her ankles.
A harsh slap to the back of the head silenced her.
“Quiet. Damn Citizen brat. You and your kind don’t know the first thing about suffering up in this palace. Don’t you dare give me that. The more pathetic you act, the more I ain’t gonna regret this.”
She lay like a loaf, offering no protest. Once the woman bit off the tape and squeezed it in place, she pulled Maya over onto her back by a fistful of fabric. She tilted her head, peering up past heaving breasts at the sweat-covered face hovering over her with an expression that asked the woman why she was being so mean. The silent plea seemed only to enrage her abductor more.
“Step it up, Genna. We’re made,” said the big man.
Genna’s oversized camouflage shirt shrouded the girl like a tent when she leaned her hands on the bed, on either side of Maya’s head, trying to peer out the bedroom door. Dog tags slipped out of the woman’s tank top and hit her in the face. She flinched, glaring at the dark brown arm inches from her face. The point of a black crescent moon tattoo peeked around her right shoulder. Maya cringed away from a drop of sweat landing near her eye. Genna slid backwards to her feet and shrugged a large, empty bag off her shoulder.
“Are you kidnapping me?” Maya whispered.
“Maldita niña,” muttered the huge man. He poked the top of her head with his pistol. “Shut up!”
“If you’re taking me for ransom, you’re wasting your―”
Genna pressed a line of tape over Maya’s mouth.
Widening yellow machine-eyes gave away a strong desire to inflict pain. “Dammit, kid, you don’t listen.”
The woman added a second length of tape, making an X over Maya’s mouth. “Calm down, Moth. You kill her now, and we just wasted a bunch of time and effort for nothing. Took Head weeks to find this princess.”
“Loco hombre de rata,” Moth grumbled.
A skinny Asian man in black pants, jacket, and gloves raced into the bedroom and stumbled to his knees when he tried to stop. He had a gun out, but it seemed like a little toy compared to the one pointed at her face. “Shit! Authority’s here.”
The metal-armed man whirled about, aiming at him, eyes wild with panic.
“Shit, Moth,” the man gasped, holding his hands up. “I’m not a damn Korean. Come back to now.”
“That was fast,” said Genna, as calm as if the sons of Jeva had come bearing religious literature. “Guess Headcrash is slipping.”
Moth scowled at the window. “He must’ve missed a sensor.”
“Yeah, yeah… you got the drones,” Genna muttered to no one. “But they found us somehow.”
“So? No big deal.” Moth smiled and aimed at the door. “All that means is this op just got a body count.”