Hyle put down her binoculars and rubbed her eyes.
"Huyy this is fucking useless."
The morning had dragged by and nothing, Nada. The passage of time weighed heavily on Hyle as she thought about Tuki, holed-up fuck knows where.
Ned paused from his watching and looked at the woman. "Sommat'll show." Then he went back to his surveillance.
Another half an hour dragged by until Ned exclaimed: " 'Ere... wass'is?"
Hyle focussed again on the door of Diamond Lil's. She recognised the two men who crossed the street and got into a black car and drove away at speed.
"Those two tried to kill me." Hyle was unsure whether or not it was frustration or plain old gut intuition, but somehow, she got the feeling this was the key moment, and she went with her gut.
"Ned. Get one of the guys on that car."
Ned instantly keyed his radio. "Chuckles! Black car. Follow it!"
"Come on, Ned!" Hyle was already dashing down the stairs.
Hyle had the car moving as Ned slammed his door shut.
"Which way?" Hyle barked.
"Chuckles. Talk to me!"
The radio crackled "South. Towards Hope." Hyle could hear the wind and Chuckles' motorbike screaming in the background.
Whenever Hyle ordered a new car, the first specification was always 'Fast'. The blue tonneau tore out of Flagstaff heading south.
Ned found himself involuntarily clutching the handle on the doorframe.
They were hurtling past Hope Springs when they drew level with Chuckles on his bike. He pointed ahead. In the distance, Hyle could see a cloud of dust but to the right of the main road.
The car had turned right and was heading up towards the old university.
At the Enforcer post, the sentry had to dive out of the way as Hyle tore past, smiling, politely wiggling her fingers. Ned sank down in his seat, expecting a hail of bullets which never came.
Clearly Mayor Troy had influence in this part of the world.
"Where the hell are they going?" Ned muttered the question. The dust cloud ahead must have taken the left fork before the university. "There nothing along there except radiation."
A couple of kilometres past the university junction Hyle slowed the car and eventually stopped. Both she and Ned got out and scanned the horizon. Nothing. No dust cloud, no buildings.
Hyle kicked the dust in frustration. It had just gone 13:45
"Maybe Joe knows something. 'Bout time we checked in anyway." Ned suggested. Hyle tuned to Joe's frequency.
When Joe answered, Hyle could hear the strain in his voice.
"How is it?" Hyle asked.
"I've just met Brown."
"Where, when, what happened?"
"Bunker bar, she's just gone. What are you doing?"
Hyle explained what had happened and where she was. And Joe perked up.
"I'll lay my Mum's best teeth I know where she is keeping Tuki!"
Five minutes later, Hyle and Ned were laid on their stomachs peering through the grass into a crater and an old LifeNet facility.
The black car was parked outside, the only sound was the hum of the building, indicating life inside.
The metal doors opened, and two men came out, not the men they had tailed, different ones.
"They must be changing shifts," Hyle whispered. "How long before the guys get here?"
"I'd give it arf an hour Miss."
"Tell them to stay out of sight as best they can, Joe reckons Brown is on her way back here as we speak."
Ned nodded. Below, the black car drove away. Ned and Hyle, now joined by Chuckles resumed their watch.
The rest of the Hyles motley crew arrived about twenty-five minutes later.
After a lot of hushing and shushing, there was a whole row of eyes looking down at the building, looking for entrances, cameras, and generally learning the lie of the land.
One of the chaps prodded Hyle's shoulder. "Here's your jacket, Miss. And a note."
"Tak," Hyle slipped the jacket on then read the note, smirked, then ate the slip of paper. Ned looked on, puzzled, but humphed it off, shaking his head.
Not long after, a car pulled up outside the facility. Miss Brown had arrived. Hyle watched. Brown looked pleased with herself as she dusted herself down then went inside.
It was time. Hyle put her plan into work.
"Ned, when I go inside, get your guys as close to the place as you can, but for god's sake keep out of sight. Then wait."
"Right...! Err... how are you going to get in?" Ned looked at Hyle.
Hyle looked back "I will knock, of course."
"Trust me, just wait for the signal then blow the doors. OK?
"Right!" Ned paused again "Umm. What signal?"
Hyle's face looked determined as she spoke. "Oh, you'll know it."
Ned watched from the rim of the crater as Hyle drove her car down the bank and parked it outside the door next to Brown's car.
He realised he was shaking his head as Hyle calmly walked up to the big doors and, just as she had said. Knocked.
"Christ, she's got some balls that one," he muttered.
As Hyle waited for the doors to open, if indeed they actually would, she thought about all the 'ifs'. And there were a lot of them. She knew about Brown but didn't 'know' her that well.
And if there were a cohort of Lucy's men inside rather than the two, three, four that she guessed.... Then what? Hyle bit her lip then stopped herself, the camera was watching.
Miss Brown put down her knife and fork, annoyed. She was hungry. All she wanted was a bite to eat before.... Well.... Spending some 'quality time' with Doctor Troy.
"What!" She demanded into the intercom.
"Err... There's someone outside... It's ... Hyle Troy."
"So? Shoot her....... No, wait."
"Hyle Troy", Brown murmured to herself and thought about this not entirely unexpected turn of events. Not wholly surprising but well down the list of possibilities.
"Is she armed? Is she alone?"
"Unarmed and alone."
"Well, let her in then."
The thick cable tie bit into Hyle's wrists tied as they were behind her back and around a pillar.
One of the thug-guards, the one who Hyle had kicked in the balls the previous day, was busy patting Hyle down, searching for hidden weapons.
Hyle closed her eyes suffering the privation as the guard conducted a 'thorough search' around her breasts and between her legs. 'Just to make sure' He cackled to his colleague.
He stopped when Miss Brown slapped him hard on the back of his head. Brown had climbed the stairs from below while his attention was elsewhere. The two guards meekly stepped away from Hyle.
Hyle watched Brown. Brown looked at Hyle. The two women both sizing the other up. The only sound being Brown's footsteps on the metal floor as she paced around Hyle.
Hyle calmly leaned against the post, her eyes following Brown. She reminded her in so many ways of Tuki, her build, and most definitely the eyes. But it was like looking at Tuki's evil twin.
Brown stopped and pointed a quizzical finger at Hyle.
"Hyle Troy.... Hope Springs? The coffee shop? You are a clone, right? I mean, I'm not imagining it am I? You wear the collar? Never die? The whole thing, right? RIGHT?!"
"I have come for Tukiko." Hyle stared back into Browns eyes.
"One thing at a time Miss Troy. Oh! Mayor Troy, My apologies. Mayor Troy, friend of the friendless. Saviour of the hopeless." The scorn shone from Brown's eyes.
"So tell me, why do you even care about them? They sure as hell don't care about you. About us. They enslaved us."
She stabbed at her own chest with a finger.
"I was created just to run out of a LifeNet facility armed with a knife and kill as many bandits as I could before they killed me... and I did that hour after hour. Death after death...
and for what? Just so they didn't have to lift a finger to defend themselves. They would even come and watch, those brave inhabitants of South Burb.
Watch us clones, who had only ever known life for a few minutes before we were fighting to survive."
She paced back and forth. Hyle watched her.
"But a change is coming Hyle Troy from Hope Springs. I remember you now, oh yes. A storm is on the horizon Lady Mayor, and when it has blown itself out, there will be only one survivor.
"If it is clone kind, if we fulfil our destiny, then a glorious future lays open to us. Imagine what we can achieve.
Imagine if Einstein or Hawkin had been cloned, what advancements would they make? We could reach for the stars."
Brown paused, lost for a moment in her own dramatics before continuing.
"But if it is mankind who stands alone on that bloody field then what fate for us? The cloning facilities destroyed. Old age and death, if we are lucky.
How do you like that, party girl? Wrinkled and hunched with your tits around your knees sitting in the corner trying to remember the words to the music you used to dance to.
Then some young human girl notices you and whispers to her friend, 'She used to be someone.' Is that truly the future you want for yourself?"
"So, join us Hyle Troy. Come with us and ensure that glorious dawn. Keep your pets if you must but fight to keep the 'gift' that has been forced on us. The gift we now claim as our own."