The Watchers

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This chapter was written by the talented ShaunAllan  

      

The drones hummed quietly on the air, watching.

Their only movement came from slight wobbles from an errant breeze that tried to dislodge these intruders into its territory. They were an almost silent audience for the world below them.

That world, the district, at least, was only a few levels up from a slum. Sampson had the funds to bring him anything he might wish for and to bring an entire establishment to the crumbling level of decay the drones now were witness to. The residents of the apartment block below could live a lifetime on what the owner of the hovering sentinels 'earned' in only a week. Earned was a loose term. Was it earning if you lived off the secrets of others, or the spying into the hidden lives of the populace? Sampson would say yes. The occupants would not.

Hours went by and the drones waited patiently, uncaring of the movements of any but their target. Suddenly, they twitched in unison. They were linked by the blanket of low level WIFI that covered the city and enabled the live streaming of The Hunt to any and all devices. Movement had been detected. Cameras had zoomed, infra-red modes already in play. A game was afoot, after all.

The woman slipped out, a shadow amongst shadows. She looked all around her before leaving the shelter of the entrance. Naturally, as one does, she neglected to look up. The drones would have been difficult to see if she had. They had the ability to alter their colours using their cameras and a paint coating with pigments that changed with deliberate variations of heat. The constant whirring of their fans diverted the energy created into myriad circuits and functions.

But, danger doesn't come from above, except in movies. Danger, or witnesses – but that's the same when you're trying to remain unseen – comes from the front or the sides or from behind. Above is the sky. Above is where prayers go to be either heard or ignored depending on your religion. Above was safe.

She slid through the streets, swift and sure and certain. She was adept at remaining hidden even in plain sight, her training from long before like a comfortable jacket recovered from a closet she'd kept locked.

She was part of the Addington family. The best. The royalty of the Hunters. She trained with her husband. Bested him in every possible way, to his immense displeasure. But he had edges that were rough. Edges that were sharp and had cut her often on the occasions when he didn't score the first kill, or wounded when he was going for a 'hole in one.' She had finesse. Grace. And the taste of blood was bitter in her mouth and a stain on her spirit.

The illness had been real at first. A sting from one of the poison traps she had tried to avoid but had still stumbled into thanks to a rock that sneaked under her boot, twisted her ankle and landed her in hospital then bed for an extended period.

So, she used the excuse of lingering sickness. Of hospital visits and stays that were never needed or happened. She found a new life that hadn't meant to include love. It hadn't meant to include taking on someone else's children and loving them as her own. It was in a world far removed from the one she called home. They had little but they had so much. Money and food and space and adoration from the fans of that damned show were trophies for her husband and children. Her other husband and children.

But now, the man she loved and who gave her a reason to smile, was in the Hunt. He was running for his life to give her the very life she had shunned!

So, she would save him.

When she ran, the drones flew. When she paused they hovered. Their thermographic lenses followed her meandering route through the canopy. The fence had proven to be no problem for her. It was designed to keep people in, not out. After all, who would want to break in and risk being accidentally shot? She knew the sensors and the cameras. She was well aware of blind spots. Almost between one heartbeat and the next, she had scaled it and was vanishing into the forest.

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