"Are you Brandon Gerasimov?"

"Who wants to-uhhh-" Blow. Explosive decompression of the solar plexus.

Pain. Tortured gasping for sweet air, laced with dirty water from the alleyway floor. Above, in the world of light and space, voices-

"Gerasimov. Affirm. Moving now." Arms lifting, efficiently, ungently. Feel toes skipping along the rough concrete surface, worry incongruously about scrapes on the newly-polished boots, leather abraded down to steel toeshields, polish and skin left along the floor of the world with surface muck traded onto the tips and tongues. Still gasping over the pain.

Was in a shortcut alleyway, just off Blue Government Three, heading for the shops behind the main plaza, hoping for a quick errand or two before heading home. That's all. Just a scarf for Petra, maybe a book offprinted if something appealed. Now nothing but pain and asphyxiation, no reason behind it, nothing, wallet still secure in the pocket, no rhyme behind this.

Stop at a curb. Wonder where everyone is, can't anyone see? A car door chunks open, tumble forward, curl fetal onto the rear bench still gasping, trying feebly to protect the head and neck. Roll to the right, partially onto the filthy floor of the vehicle, hear the door slam, vibration, no noise, moving, gone.

"How many?"

"The last."


"We have enough."

Voices, alongside, up front, words that make no sense. A sharp pain in the back of the head, hand clutched there batted aside, feel the world going muzzy after the puncture, smell of chemicals and violets-



Door chunks open again. Lifted from the car. Swinging in the grip of four hands, this time, not even tapping at the pavement, muscles limp in the grip of the drug. Something runs down the neck, blood or waste or water or fear. Descending. Into darkness from the day, into tunnels from the surface, into...


There is silence in between ears and wrapped around temples. Senses dim but some remain, some linked powerfully enough to worm past the molecular barrier of the dose - smells...musty...damp and old...tunnels. The Web.

Air moves slightly against skin made strangely hypersensitive. A booming noise, far off, sighs down to silence betrayed by subsonic roar of waiting power. Hands move. Feet shuffle. Swaying. Body moving. Lights at the corner of eyes.

MY eyes.

Perspective and identity.


I am carried. I am carried, taken, held, drugged. The scream of rage is there, held down and banked by rude pharmacopaiea but there nonetheless. A twitch is all that manifests. Yellow light intrudes on flourescent blues, the doors of the Capsule opening, my captors lifting me towards the doors-




"SHIT!" I have time to see the ground approach me in wavering jumps, the ceramacrete dancing for my eyes and nose in laughing little gavottes, before it lovingly hugs itself to my face with the crackle of breaking small bones and the spurt of blood from my nose, taking the light with it. I am pressed against the platform, unable to see or move, but my ears crackle in sudden awareness of their importance, amplifying in my brain-


what the fuck is that-


NOW! This voice is new, I don't know it-

-there is a flare of light so intensely silver that it blinds me even with my eyes pressed into the surface of the platform. Screams. Around me, at least four men are screaming, there is a serious of continuous explosions SSFAK SSSFAK SSSFAK SSSFAK each followed by a harsh and irregular KCHKRAK and rattling off to my right. Hands grasp me (two hands) and I feel myself lifted into the light, blinking-

Sunglasses, reflective and enormous, over a wild and manic grin-

I am slung over a shoulder. I can see a yellow square shrinking, the door to the Capsule sliding calmly shut as automatics determine this station stop is all done for. I am bouncing, now, carried along downline towards the end of the platform. I can see that way, intermittently, around the side of the figure carrying me, and there is another figure waiting there by the edge of the darkness that is the tunnel, its hands raised, back slightly bent in classic gunfighter's pose, but there are no guns I can see.

"ANGEL MOVING!" The shout is torn from the body on whose shoulder I am riding, the jouncing taking my breath from me and spattering the blood from my nose onto the platform. There are shouts from behind us, now, starting up, and with them the sounds of thunder and damnation.


-the surface of the Capsule alongside my head begins to move but grows a line of sparks and creases as a bullet ploughs into it-

I swing outwards again, and see that the figure at the end of the platform has thrust one hand forward, the other fisted at its hip. There is a glare from its face, mirrored sunglasses as large as those I'd briefly seen on my rescuer reflecting the front beams of the now moving Capsule, and from the hand thrust forward with palm presented-

Madness. Silver. Stuff of dreams and universe unchained, against bullets and death-by-machine. I watch as arrowheads leap from his/her hand, too fast to see but too bright to miss, dash past my field of view at the speed of light and dream, leaving fading lines in the air, arrow straight and reflective, the sounds a hissing laugh of mercury released from frozen time. Behind, I hear a scream, not a shout, of pure and unadulturated terror, adult confronted with world gone horribly wrong from expectation, and in my own terror and confusion I cannot help but laugh and hope it is a terrible sound...

The Capsule moved past. Bright lights told of Magfield in action at the tunnel's mouth, Vectorfield working to slide the Capsule into the space beneath the world, I felt the universe rotate as I was lifted from the shoulder and thrown. I couldn't see forward, only back; I had time to see a dark shape, running as I sailed helplessly away from it, and then I was slapped lightly on the side, presumably by the figure who had been at the end of the platform, and swung out into the air over the Web. Before I could scream or try to flail my paralyzed arms, an intolerably bright light surrounded me as I spun - the lit rear of the Capsule, receding from the station - and I could see the figure that had thrown me jump off the platform also, into the air. I had just enough time to see him spin in midair as well, much more gracefully than I, his hand coming up; there was a bark of sound, two, three. Flares of light from his fist, small bits of matter, SILVER FLARING AROUND US, his fire flashing backwards towards the men beginning to move towards us from the middle of the platform, and then there was a wordless shout of power. An ephemeral light, extinguished, I went out-