Disbelief and despair boiled over to fury as Aaron stared at Cross. The bodybroker saw the red rage reflected in Aaron's eyes and the self-satisfied smirk Cross wore began to fade.

"You bastard," Aaron said in a low, dangerous voice. In his fury, he forgot about the police at the door and his own dangerous situation. He was on Cross before the bodybroker could do more than begin to raise his hands to defend himself. Aaron's fist connected and he felt Cross's nose crunch beneath it. Blood gushed down the broker's face from the newly broken nose. Aaron's second blow hit the lying bastard's mouth with satisfying force, driving the bottom front teeth through the man's bottom lip.

The crash of the door as it was kicked in finally reminded Aaron that he and Cross were not the only players in this particular game at the casino. He didn't pause to think. Ignoring the order to freeze, he grabbed Cross and flung him toward the door. The raging mixture of fear, anger, and adrenaline lent Aaron strength he didn't normally possess. The broker didn't just stumble into the doorway from the push. Cross's feet left the floor and he plowed into the cops bottlenecked at the door, buying Aaron a few seconds while the police tried to get past the bodybroker's reeling form.

He put those seconds to use. With his head tucked down and his arms raised to protect it, Aaron powered his way across the bathroom and dove through the stained glass of the window across from the door. Belated shots rang out behind him as he rolled to his feet and fled down the garbage-strewn alley at the back of the casino.

* * * * *

Ella was unable to go back to bed, though her body was demanding rest. She was glued to the newssheet, and had been since she first saw the footage of her father. She was still there when the latest news on Aaron flashed onto the page. The newssheet's sensor registered her interest in the article by how long she paused on it, and the audio track began: The Eden Casino and Hotel was the scene of violence this evening. Aaron Brozek, wanted in the murder earlier today of Eli Trammel of NDS, attacked a man in the bathroom of the casino. The victim, Matthew Cross, was rushed to the hospital with multiple injuries.

Ella bit her lip as the audio track went on. The voice of the track was suddenly an irritant. How could it sound so calm, so pleasant, so... so cheerful as it gave her this awful news?

"Shut up!" Ella slapped her hand down on the newssheet and tears welled in her eyes. "Shut up, shut up, shut up!" The silence left as the audio stopped was instead filled by the girl's shaky breath as she cried bitterly. For all her unusual maturity, she was still only eleven, and sometimes it could still be seen. So it was now. For this moment, Ella was the scared and sickly child she rarely ever let herself be.

But Ella also had a spine of steel, and she didn't let herself cry for long. She dried her tears and looked back at the article, skimming it until she learned that her father had managed to escape the police at the Eden.

Another cough wracked her, and she closed her eyes as the pain ripped through her chest again. This attack was worse than the last, and left her weak and breathless before it released her.

By the time she opened her eyes, the newssheet article had changed again. The latest news and footage chilled her to the bone. Staring out from the latest flash news were the dead, flat killer's eyes of a Patchwork. Corporacracy shock troops, hired and then bioenhanced, who served the Big Five in the ruling corporations. The name came from the network of scars, like patchwork, that covered them from the operations to graft on new muscle and insert subcutaneous armor. They were paramilitary killing machines, unthinkingly loyal to the Corporacracy, and they were now involved in the hunt for Aaron.

Ella's legs, not strong to begin with, weakened suddenly, like a tap in her body had suddenly turned on and drained something vital out of her. Even her wild grab for the walker didn't save her, and she collapsed onto the floor.

"Oh Dad, what did you do? What did you get yourself involved in?" Ella whispered, curled up and shivering on the floor.

The End

38 comments about this story Feed