Chapter 2

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Kira's eyes screwed shut as the rainbow of lights assaulted her senses. It had been near pitch black in the back of the van, painted windows blocking out most of the morning light. The city was alien to her, every surface seemed to have flashing banners on it advertising everything from the latest computer games to yachts and the newest invention of hover cars. The moving pictures told her what they were selling, being from the slums she never learned to read. All education was now accessed through computers at home and her family did not have the means to afford such luxury as even a tablet or smartphone let alone the latest virtual reality units.

She had no concept of how long she had been in the van, all she knew was that it had been a long journey. The nearest city to her village was a two-hour ride; she presumed this was where she had been brought. The city was named Johnsonville after a former director of Princips Ltd. All cities now were, these included Smythville, Jonesville and Takadaville amongst others. Another piece of self indulgence by the mega company, another way to rub everyone's noses in the fact they were being controlled. Kira felt somewhat outside of Princips' grasp in the slums but now she was most definitely in the system. After being caught, the shopkeeper had sent a message to the Justice Department. Kira did not bothered to protest, she sat quietly and waited for them to come. She knew good behaviour now would help her with her sentence. It was amazing how quickly they turned up, but then again the slums were rife with crime so the Justice Teams probably stayed on high alert and must have had teams stationed in each village. Kira had seen others picked up for similarly small crimes but had not been there when the calls were made. Also none of the teams patrolled the slums in case of attack, they must have secret hiding places in the villages, ready to roll when called. That was all history now to her, she was here, she had been taken, her only regret that she could not say goodbye to her mother.

The air felt stagnate on her face as she was bundled from the van by the two guards who had picked her up from the slums. Their uniforms, heavy black boots, dark blue combat trousers and jacket with bulletproof vest topped with a jet black helmet and tinted visor, were covered in the dirt and grime of the slums. They juxtaposed against the clean, almost glowing, streets of the city. Kira was being delivered to the city's Hall of Justice. Rather than being taken round to a concealed entrance they marched her through the streets, a warning to others that may consider following in her footsteps. A light drizzle hit the morning, but that did not stop the onlookers, everyone they passed turned heads. Their faces were all the same, pastiches of disgust. One even spat, a crime in the city in any other situation but criminals were fair game. She retched as the warm phlegm hit her cheek then screwed up her face as it trickled down, her bound hands unable to wipe it away. Kira stopped looking into everyone's eyes, stopped staring back at them and stopped showing them her defiance. Instead she ignored them, focused only on the building they headed towards, one of the myriad of skyscrapers that created the maze that was this city. Unlike the others this one rose high into the cloudy sky, cutting through it like a stairway to the gods. More important was the status symbol that sat at its entrance. There, in a semi-circle with a path that cut through, sat a lush green lawn, well maintained and with a tree at either end. The owner must have been rich to afford vegetation, something that usually only existed in the exclusive parks dotted around the city, parks which courted vast membership fees. Kira had never seen anything so beautiful in her life.

The scent as they passed was amazing, like nothing she had ever experienced. Fresh was the only word she could use to describe the sensation. All too soon it was over and they had entered the Hall of Justice. The smell inside she could not place, had she known more she would have said clinical. The reception area was decked out in sterile white like any spaceship from any 1970s sci-fi movie. Although a large space it was sparsely furnished with few people around. It was clear no one wanted to be here. The guards marched Kira to a reception desk behind which sat a dower faced young lady watching TV on her phone. After a brief exchange with the woman, the officers led Kira behind the desk then through a metal arch which turned out to be a scanner. Neither of the guards removed their weaponry yet the scanner did not protest, letting them through to the lift behind.

~

The lift had taken Kira up several floors to the processing unit. Had she seen any sci-fi movies she would have realised the inspiration for the steps that followed. She was cleaned, hair trimmed, tagged and given new, grey clothes. She was basically stripped of what made her an individual and become just another inmate, another lost soul in a sea of people who did not matter to Princips Ltd. Once she had been prepared she was placed in front of a computer and given a set of questions, these attempted to profile her and show her mental strengths and weaknesses. Had she bothered to think about her answers she may have found herself placed in a secure unit or even deemed too intelligent to keep alive. Instead she picked random answers to the multiple choice questions and completed the test in record time. The test set her threat level to harmless, and the computer decided she was best suited to menial tasks, it suggested maid or waitress.

So now she sat alone in her cell, a basin to one side of the door, a toilet to the other and at the far end a thin battered mattress. It was far from the high tech systems which had brought her here. Kira's new jumpsuit made her itch, as she stared toward the door in a daze the only life in her was the odd scratch. Here she waited; waited to be collected, waited to be assigned, waited to find out what her new life would be.


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