an animal that is hunted and killed by another for food.
Cops busting into somewhere like The Black Jasmine? That was never going to fly. For about five seconds it seemed like everyone was going to be cool, standing there looking nonplussed and glistening with sweat. Then somebody shouted "swivelhead!", a can went flying through the air and it all kicked off.
The cop targeted by the optimistic drink hurler reached out and caught it perfectly without even turning towards it. Like I said, a lot of cops these days had eyes in the back of their heads. Even people with half a brain knew that.
It was my cue to get the hell out. I couldn't see Rachel anywhere so I headed straight for the stairwell, which I knew led out onto the fire escape having spent too many evenings on it with boys I was far too good for. The club was on the second floor of an old converted factory and climbing down to the ground and slinking away shouldn't prove too tricksy.
The fire door had barely closed when it banged open again and a pile of bodies tipped out, shrieking and laughing and swearing. One of them saw me and waved, grinning - it was Marv, his hair not nearly as coiffured as earlier.
"Thought that was you out here," he said. "We should keep moving." He stared intently at the wall of the club for a moment, then started moving me forcibly down the stairs. "Hurry, the cops'll be out here in twenty seconds."
As we leapt two steps at a time towards the alleyway I wondered what could be so bad the police would close down a nightclub. "Police suck," I said, "don't they have worse gigs to crash? Nothing super bad goes down at the Jasmine."
Marv laughed. "You don't see what's going on in those back rooms," he said with a wink. He pointed back up the fire escape. "Here they come."
Half a second later the fire door banged open again and five cops barrelled out, one by one, each of them scanning the area. Three descended, coming after us and the rest of the clubbers who had come out this way. The other two went in the opposite direction, heading up towards the roof. One of them was older and had wings, which was unusual. You didn't see wings come down from their ivory towers too often. Everyone on the staircase scattered: a stretcher bridged his way to the adjacent roof and scampered away, I saw a camo attempt to blend into the brickwork only to be easily spotted by an unimpressed thermal cop, and one tusker actually thought it was a good idea to become his own one-man army. That didn't last long.
We'd found a welcome committee at the bottom of the stairs and were sitting cross-legged on the wet tarmac while we were processed. Not exactly the evening I'd had in mind.
"How come you didn't see the goons waiting for us, then, Marv?" That was from somebody else, a girl with too much eyeliner, hair like a spider's web and gills on the side of her neck.
He shrugged. "I was looking the wrong way. How come you didn't see 'em, Lottie?"
There were two cops pacing around us, looking pretty nervy. Didn't really make any sense. "Hey," I said to the nearest, "you going to charge us with something or what? You can't just keep us here all night."
The cop stopped and pointed a gloved finger at me. "You keep that forked tongue of yours in your mouth, and maybe we won't have ourselves a problem here."
"You know it's against the law to stop and search based on phenotype, right?"
"Well, I got a law right here against you using big words, so shut it up." The cop smirked at his own joke and continued pacing. They were heavily armed and armoured, far more than just a standard beat patrol. Neck-guards, riot helmets, tasers, extinguishers, anti-knife and projectile vests. It looked like they were ready for just about anyone.
"My dad still talks about when this kind of thing happened all the time, man," Marv said. "Just par for the course back then. Maybe it ain't such distant past no more, right?"
The first sign that something was happening on the roof was when a policeman fell out of the sky and collided with the ground. It wasn't like in the movies, when people faceplant like they just tripped and fell. This guy hit the floor then kept going, spreading out horizontally in a big red mess. We all stared for about three seconds, then I broke the tension by vomiting all over my shoes.
A gunshot echoed off the roof of the club. Marv was on his feet, straining his eyes to see what was happening, parsing through the noise of five floors of brick and mortar filled with bodies.
"Ah, crap," he said.
There was movement on the roof's edge and a figure stood there momentarily, only barely visible in the spill from the streetlights, then he dove off the edge, spreading wings and arcing out into a glide. His motion was unstable, like he'd never done it before. One of the cops next to us came to his senses and let off a shot, which clipped the guy's wing but didn't bring him down. A moment later he'd flown around the side of the building and out of sight, into the darkness.
The same cop grabbed Marv. "You're a thermal, right? Where'd he go? Can you see where he went?"
Marv brushed his hands down his chest, knocking away the cop. "Get off me, man," he said. He stared into the distance. "He's gone. Can't see him. Looks like you missed your chance."
Blood from the fallen cop had trickled out, seeping into every pothole and crack in the road. One rivulet had found its way over to me, where it had pooled around my shoes.
I'd never felt sorry for a cop before. That was a feeling I didn't want to get used to.
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A Day of Faces (complete novel)Science Fiction
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