The medkit display burned solid red.
Through the haze of tears, shock, nausea, and fear, Clarisse stared at poor Grace. The blonde’s hair was streaked with red and black, bits of pink-red tissue clinging to some of the strands. The other half of her friend’s face looked so calm, so normal. Almost like she had just fallen asleep.
Clarisse managed to turn her head far enough to avoid vomiting on the paramedic and her friend.
She started giggling. She couldn’t stop. All she could think about was what Mrs. Kendrick would say about the mess on the carpet. She’d be so pissed. Probably ground Grace for a week.
The paramedic (his uniform RFID tag said ‘Max’) looked up from his efforts to help the blonde, a look of genuine concern on his face.
She should stop giggling. It wasn’t right. Why couldn’t she stop?
SHE’S GONE! SNAP THE FUCK OUT OF IT AND MOVE!
Max reached out to put his hand on her shoulder, but she twisted away and rose. She still didn’t know where Sam was, and she didn’t have time for this crap. The shock and fear seemed to be passing, her faculties helped by having something to focus on. She looked around the ruins of the living room, surveying the scene.
Shell casings by the kitchen hallway. Blood on the shattered glass. They were either in the house when Sam arrived, or they had come in the back.
She stalked down the kitchen hallway to the back door. She confirmed that the maglock was still engaged, then opened it to look at the casing. No marks or signs of damage. They either had the code, or they were let in.
Clarisse turned and ran upstairs to the other girl’s room. The door stood open to the hallway, the light from the computer display giving the area an eerie glow. The AR display was blank, and a quick check of the system logs confirmed no activity for several days.
Clarisse stared at the monitor for several breaths. Why was the computer on when no-one was using it? Why wasn’t Grace using it?
A sudden inspiration had Clarisse running for the back door again. They hadn’t used the box for years, but if someone was preventing Grace from using the Matrix…
The garden was starting to sprout weeds, which was unusual given Mrs. Kendrick’s obsession with her flowers. Dumping the random thought, Clarisse followed the low brick wall to where the old message box was hidden. The girls used to send each other notes using the hollow stone, back when Grace’s parents could still monitor their commlinks. It had been years, and Clarisse didn’t even know if Grace still remembered the box.
The trick clasp popped open and her heart skipped a beat when she saw the paper stuffed into the tiny opening. It looked like Grace had been in a hurry when she put the message in place. Carefully pulling the crumpled sheets out, Clarisse scanned the hastily scribbled message.
Her eyes began to tear up as she picked her way through the disjointed information and explanations. Grace must have been closely watched by someone, only able to steal short moments to write something down. The details were sketchy, but the message was clear. Sam was in big trouble, and Grace hadn’t been able to do anything but go along with it.
The tears began rolling freely, and her stomach threatened to betray her again. Clarisse stood paralyzed, slowly shredding the papers that were Grace’s last communication with her.
SUCK IT UP! STILL NEED TO ACT!
Clarisse took a deep breath to fight down the nausea and headed back through the house, avoiding the gruesome scene in the living room. The paramedics were wheeling Mazula to the ambulance, so she started there.
Putting on what she hoped was her best ‘helpless teenage girl’ act, she ran up to the paramedic, whose RFID badge displayed the name ‘Roch’. “Wait! Where are you taking them? Max said they were ok!”
As the guy looked toward the house, she slipped a hand under Mazula’s jacket to grab his commlink. Roch turned back and shrugged, “They both need a proper evaluation, but they should be ok. We’re going to GSH. I’ll make sure Dispatch directs her there as well. OK?”
Clarisse nodded and sniffled a few times for good measure. “Would it be OK if I got my sister’s house-pass? I left my purse at home ’cause I was meeting her…”
“Yeah, sure. Go ahead.”
The teen searched Sitara, nearly cutting her hand off before she noticed the monofilament cord protruding from the elf’s finger. A spoofed command retracted the device, and she quickly pocketed another commlink.
Clarisse knew most of Grace’s neighbors, and a quick look confirmed that Mrs. Masterson was on her porch watching the scene unfold. She strode across the lawn to the Kendricks’ next door neighbor, ignoring the stares of others who had come out to watch.
Despite knowing the teen for more than five years, the elderly lady looked terrified as Clarisse stepped onto her porch.
“What happened, Mrs. M?”, she asked.
“I…..I….I d…d…don’t know, dear. I was sleeping”, the old lady stammered.
Bullshit. She saw the whole thing. Nosy old bitch.
Clarisse leaned in closely to whisper in the good ear. “Listen, you nosy old bitch. I know you saw the whole thing. You spy on everybody along this street. Grace, and probably her folks, are dead, and someone I care about was taken. If you don’t start talking right now, the government is going to find out that your dead husband is still getting his pension checks, twelve years after his stroke.”
The old lady’s eyes widened and the information started tumbling out. "Some elf punk came by a half hour ago. Went inside with Grace. Then I heard gunshots, and he came busting out through the front window with two guys in suits chasing him. He stumbled and fell, and one of the suits shot him and he stopped moving. They were arguing about something while they picked his body up. Then this elf woman on a bike appeared. Ran right into them. They took her down pretty fast, then the other guy showed up on his bike. They were shooting at each other for a couple of seconds before he fell.
“The two suits started arguing about something. Probably that elf guy. One of them picked him up and started heading for the car, when the other one pointed his gun at him and shouted something about needing him alive. Then he shot his friend in the head and took off with the elf.”
Clarisse nodded. Then she pinned the old lady with her best intimidating glare. “You didn’t see anything, Mrs. M. If they find out you know what happened, the URS is going to be the least of your worries.”
She didn’t wait for the old woman’s answer before running back across the lawn. Two more ambulances had arrived while she had been talking with Mrs. Masterson, and the paramedics were busy loading Sitara into the back of one of the vehicles. She quickly righted Sitara’s and Mazula’s bikes and spoofed the autopilots to drive them home. She got her own bike ready before going over to the suit’s body.
Clarisse knelt down and began rifling through the kidnapper’s gear, looking for anything that would help her find Sam. She felt a hand on her shoulder just as she grabbed the commlink she was hoping to find.
“Hey there, Miss”, said Max. “You shouldn’t be doing that.”
GET OUT OF THE FUCKING WAY, OR YOUR BRAINS ARE GOING TO BE ALL OVER THIS LAWN!
Clarisse whirled on the paramedic, her Yamaha pointed at the bridge of his nose. “Back the fuck off, or I’ll blow your brains all over the lawn!”
Max’s eyes widened as he stared at the business end of the four-barreled pistol. He took a step back and raised his hands slowly. “Easy…”
Clarisse backed toward her bike, still pointing the gun at the paramedic. “This is none of your business, Max. Just take my friends to the hospital and forget all about me. They took Sam, and I swear I’ll kill anyone who gets in my way.”
At the paramedic’s nod, she lowered the weapon and jumped on the bike. Her first call was already going through before Max even remembered to breathe.
“Zen? K-B. Get ahold of many of the gang as you can collect. I need a major league run. I’m calling in all my favors. Meet me at Le Vrai in fifteen.”