Part 3: Talon - Chapter 8

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They were going to kill her.

Maddy knew this, but it made no difference. Somebody would end up killing her anyway: the terrorists, the government or the military, but this time the threat was imminent. There was some vague idea in her mind that if they saw she was unarmed, they might just beat her up and dump her somewhere out of town with a long walk home. She could hope for that, at least.

It was not knowing when they would come for her that was the worst. Going from day to day, trying to work and eat and sleep as if nothing was going to happen, that was the hardest part. Leaving town was pointless: they knew her real identity; tracking her anywhere on the planet would be easy. Leaving Mars was equally pointless: she didn't have enough money to go anywhere else, and it risked compromising her identity which could be exploited with the other group that wanted to find her, the Syndicate.

So she watched and waited and looked over her shoulder occasionally, and slept little. She had a crude but legal stun gun bought for personal protection after arriving on Mars months ago, but it would be of little defence against armed terrorists. She had thought of obtaining something more deadly after seeing some police officers in the street wearing side arms that could put a hole in concrete large enough for her to climb through. There was no doubt an underworld source of weapons here on Mars, but arming herself was basically pointless: despite her use of guns in the past she had no proper training in how to use them. Terrorists would be much more capable than her.

On the morning of the third day they came, and they knew where to find her. She'd given up sitting beside the dome looking out at the scenery. The view held no joy anymore; even the desire to paint it had faded. She was in a diner eating breakfast when two Helots appeared outside the front window, silent and unmoving, looking in at her. They were different to the ones who'd come to the workshop.

There was no doubt a back exit to the place, but Maddy knew enough not to try it. They would have it covered, and any show of resistance would be met with a fatal degree of force. Two out the front, probably another two at the back. There was also a Helot working behind the counter—even he could be part of it.

They let her finish breakfast. As she rose and slung a black satchel over her shoulder, the Helots stirred, one reaching under his robes. Were they bold enough to draw a weapon here? Maddy paid for her meal and stepped towards the door, her full stomach making her feel nauseous. As the door slid open, the Helots moved in to either side. They made it look so casual, so accidental, that they should follow her down the street, one on either side. The one with the weapon was slightly behind; the other kept pace with Maddy, walking on the side she carried her satchel.

'Do you want to do it here, or somewhere else?' she asked after a few minutes of silent pacing. The Helot walking beside her didn't look, didn't even register that he'd been spoken to. 'I mean, this is a crowded street. We could step into an alley or whatever if you'd like to be less obvious.' She was startled by her own bravado.

'Keep walking,' was all the Helot said. 'A few more minutes.'

'I'm not armed, so your friend can put the gun away.'

'It's best not to speak, Hawthorn. You will have that opportunity soon.'

They walked on in silence. Around them were people commuting to work, children on their way to school, shoppers and tourists. None looked at her, and few regarded the Helots, who gave the impression they belonged to Maddy and were merely being taken to some work detail. She tried to catch the eyes of a few people, but what could they do to help? For one moment a police officer paced by, but the Helot behind her made a single noise in his throat and she knew any attempt to gain the officer's attention would end badly.

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