Blue Ash Crisis: Chapter 2

If you have not read the previous chapter you may want to read that one first. Click the button below to be taken to the previous chapter.

Chapter 2

Exposed brick lines the pealing walls of the dingy apartment. Three men and a girl spread a pair of floor layouts atop a ratty table. “I am telling you, it’s the perfect time to strike. There is already an anti-police demonstration going on. It will be a turkey shoot.”

“I don’t like it.” a younger man says. “I don’t want some Mr. Johnson knocking on my door some years from now with a score to settle for his corporate masters.”

“You can just move on like snakes on ice. Get out of the country, disappear, have a better life. I bet we won’t even need to dust anyone.” The other three show in the large lenses of his green mechanical eyes. “You in?” They nod to each other and shake hands. “Good.”

“I need a great story now.” Apricot moans resting her head over the backrest of the chilly black wood bench. “I will get in trouble if I don’t turn in a paper tomorrow.” With a hop she sits upright lifting a partially eaten soggy double cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and a fried egg. “The Bureau of education sent me a letter certified that if my grades did not improve, they will move me to the labor field and I don’t want to work in a factory the rest of my life.”

Bonni sits next to Apricot cross-legged swinging her heel off her foot. The scent of espresso from her cafe uniform battles against the surrounding salty smells of fried food. She draws a nugget from a small cardboard pouch and dips the tip into a pair of teriyaki and mayonnaise cartons.

“Why not do one on today’s incident?” says a sharp faced black-haired man who sits across from Apricot. In his hands is a half-eaten burger. “I got a couple photos of the crime scene, they would be great for your piece.”

A younger girls sits next to him plucking at a bowl of salad. “She needs a good article Sato.” Apricot had met Sato Takoma through school. He is a few years her senior but the two are in several classes together all the same. His little sister, Machi, a first-year engineering student, had also become her friend. During her years at primary school, Apricot knew of Machi. She always had her pinned as a spoiled brat but after meeting Machi, her opinion stayed much the same.

Apricot glances towards Bonni who’s grin spread so deep across her face it looks as though it might just slip off. “So, remember that secret I wanted to tell you, like those police were at that robbery this morning, as I was saying they looked worried about something.”

Apricot watches as Machi rolls her ice-green eyes shielded behind heavy black-framed glasses. “I think there is a clear answer for that one,” Before Machi had finished her thought she takes a bite of her salad bowl. As she chews her bite Apricot and Bonni both wait for her answer. She swings her head back allowing her black twin tails to sway, swallows and proceeds “Most likely the fact she murdered several people.”

Bonni picks up another nugget and gestures towards Machi in a stabbing motion. “Don’t you think it’s odd that, so many people died. Eerie Truths Monthly reports there has been monster sightings all over the place. One person could not cause that much death. Perhaps she was not human at all. I bet,”

“Monsters!” Machi bursts out cutting Bonni off. “Ha, she was a crazy person jumped up on some pills.” Machi barks back chortling at the thought.

“I find it odd too Bonni but I don’t think I can write an article on it.” Apricot cuts in.

“But why are they appearing all over the place now? I remember not too long ago when everyone said witches were just fairy tales.”

“We live in an overly superstitious society. People still pay respect to Obojo the money god whenever they expect a raise.” Machi snaps.

“Something is going on! Don’t you agree with me, Sato?” Bonni leans over the table stroking Sato’s lap. A heavy red blush paints his face as he stares into Bonni’s doe eyes.

“He is a photographer, not a reporter.” Machi butts in giving a quick kick on Bonni’s leg forcing her backward into her seat. “Witches are not real either. They are just ill people playing hocus-pokus.”

“I guess this sounds like tabloid stuff but who knows what is creeping in the shadows right. I mean for all we know monsters are under the city.” Sato strokes the back of his head with a stupid grin. Apricot giggles at Machi’s stabbing glare before she issues a slight jab into Sato’s ribs. “Ack!” he yelps “But Machi is right, I am a photojournalist. If I see something and snap it you bet it would be front page news though.” He adds rubbing the jolt of Machi’s playful blow.

“Tabloid, no this is innovative news.” Bonni barks before turning her gazes on Apricot. “This is the breaking journalism that makes people famous. Imagine Apricot, they would always know you as the woman who brought the monster invasion of Blue Ash to light.”

“Well,” Apricot says placing a finger to her lower lip. She looks up towards her brow pondering a way to avoid offending Bonni. “I need more information and two sources. Thanks for the tip though Bonni. I will keep my ears open and you bet if I get more information I might write an article on it.”

“Ugh Apricot,” Machi growls. “Don’t encourage her to be so absurd.”

“Apricot come on!” Bonni whines, “My idea is perfect.” The harmony of blaring sirens sends Bonni’s eyes and mouth to widen. Several police squad cars rush by causing the wrappers to tremble on the outside table. Sato immediately grabs his phone from his pocket.

A smirk grows on Apricot’s face, a sense of minor guilt coming over her for the sensation of joy. “Hey Sato, what’s your police scanner say? Something I might want to write about?”

She leaps from her chair clutching onto Sato’s shoulder to examine the screen. Sato maneuvers his finger through a black and blue looking app. Several alerts are on the board, many minor ones, a few on a protest, and an emergency report. He sails his digit on the alert. Apricot squints but can’t read the meager text. “Yeah,” he says pausing for a moment. “There’s a bank robbery a few blocks from here.”

“A bank robbery would be perfect!” Apricot bursts throwing a fist pump. “Sato!” she shouts.

“You thinking what I am thinking?” He smirks standing up from the table. “Hey Machi here is fifty marks,” Sato says pulling out a few shiny emerald cards. “I’m sorry but you will have to get yourself a ride home.”

Machi blows a whiff of air. “Yeah yeah, you always ditch me like this, I am used to it.” Looking back to Bonni who grins at her with predatory eyes. “Wait! Don’t leave me with Bonni! She is nuts!”

Bonni lets out a small laugh. “I am the one baby sitting.”

Apricot waves to the two girls while running to Sato’s bike. “Hey sorry to take off like this. I will call you later to tell you how it went!” Bonni returns the wave as Machi sits cross-armed and slumps into her seat.

The clamor of the sirens battle against the thunder of the trail rider. Apricot clasps onto Sato’s back as he handles the crimson and white sports bike with expert technique. Cars rush by as he careens through the two onward lanes. The gaps between the white lines of the street turns into a flicker as Sato pulls on the throttle attempting to catch up to the police’s wake. “Sato,” Apricot yelps. “Don’t you think this might be a little fast.” The swishing of automobiles had progressed from having measured pause to something more like a rapid response.

“These things can go down quick,” Sato says “Don’t want to miss a thing.” Apricot feels her heart race as she stares at a near wall of cars up ahead. She lets out a shriek as Sato cranks the break screeching the motorcycle into a skid. The harsh stink of scorched rubber fills the air as Sato comes to a complete stop behind a truck. “Ah shit looks like we have traffic, damn.”

She pats Sato on the back hopping off the bike. “Sorry Sato.” His head tilts to the side as she saunters away. “Thanks for the ride. I will catch you later.” Dancing a trot down the road Apricot giggles holding up his camera in the air.

“Yeah, get a good shot for me will ya?”

Apricot spins to face Sato as she walks backwards replying “You bet!”

She sprints along the traffic slathered street. The transportation weaves along a game of inches and steps through the clogged metropolitan corridor. A screech roars, Apricot‘s heel seers in anguish. In mid-fall she holds Sato’s camera up in the air while she drops onto her side scraping against the asphalt. When she recovers her orientation, she discovers a blue bumper inches above her head.

“Oh, my! I am so sorry, I, I,” Apricot hears while pushing herself up off the ground. She looks up to see a man stammering from the car’s open passenger door. “I didn’t see you, are you ok miss?!” Her heart drops as her finger plucks the cover of the camera’s lense. Without even regarding the man she lifts the camera and to her relief it is unharmed. A huge sigh escapes her while she brushes off the street dust. As she runs her hand down her thigh, a sticky wetness covers her palm. She glances at her fingers to see a delicate smear of red cover them and notes a surface coat of blood blossoming against her pale elbow and knees. Aside from these minor scrapes she senses nothing else amiss.

“Miss?” The man questions again.

“Yeah, it’s fine,” Apricot calls out taking off toward the faint sound of sirens giving little concern for her own safety or the man, she is on a mission after all.

When she nears the source of the piercing sirens, a riot bears against the police’s barriers. “I hate it when they do this kind of BS. Let the police do their job.”

Apricot had not been entirely familiar with the reason for the mass protests breaking out in Blue Ash. From what she understood Okabe had made actions to separate itself from the Uchellan mainland. In doing so, they centralized the police under the direct control of the Okabe family. The reaction from the people of Okabe has been less than appreciative as they viewed it as privatizing the police.

Reaching into her pocket Apricot searches for her state journalist badge. Not finding it she goes to search her purse only to discover it’s missing. With a throbbing heart she glances over her person realizing she had left her bag at the restaurant. She imagines Machi or Bonni noticed the purse laying in her seat. “Great,” Apricot says aloud looking at the swarms of protestors.

As she approaches, she is drowned in a flood of people carrying placards and signs. All the heat, smells, and sweat reminds her of a packed concert. Battling the tide she forces herself to the police line. Her meager hand among many waves to grab the attention of a guard. “I am media can someone let me through!” she shouts.

An officer glances at her before hollering over the deluge “Sure kid, where is your pass?” As she makes it closer she latches onto the barricade attempting to hold herself from being pulled back into the angry mob.

“I accidently left it behind I was in such a hurry to follow the sirens.”

“I’m press too, officer!” hollers a man in a business suit.

“Sure kid, go get it and I will let you through. Without it, you are not coming on this side of the barricade.”

“I am press.” shouts another woman.

“Officer please!” Apricot begs.

With a stern hand the official gestures. “Listen, you punk, you’re not tricking me. Now scram before I have you arrested for misrepresenting yourself to an officer.”

In a panic Apricot blurts out a question, “What is the official statement from the force about the robbery?”

“The state has chosen not to disclose whether this is a robbery. We will give further information as we understand the situation.” the officer states.

Drawing a scratch pad from her pocket Apricot continues “Is there anyone inside the building?”

The police officer’s face turns red. “Back off and disperse now!”

“Forgive me, officer.” Apricot gives a swift bow before pushing back through the throng of crazed protestors. With a heavy heart, Apricot found it best to retreat. It is not a healthy idea to negotiate with the police while surrounded by agitators. The angry roar of the crowd drowns out as she heads off the main street.

After her escape, Apricot feels a release from her original adrenalin rush, defeat overtaking her as she glances back at the swarm. A slight anger seethes deep in her core. If only there were not these crazy protestors, they may have allowed her entry.

“Well, at least I can get something for Sato.“ she remarks to herself. Apricot lifts the camera. Through the frame of the viewfinder, she watches as people contend against the police. The black armored officers move through the pack with batons bashing in heads.

“Looks like I got out of there just in time.“ Apricot squeezes the button, twin shutters spiral with a click and open just as fast capturing the moment onto the negative tape. She grins to herself knowing the shot will please Sato. Though, she could have a wider shot if she walked back a few steps using the building’s alleyway to frame the picture. As she steps back she trips. Falling backward Apricot throws both her palms to the sides and catches her footing. The camera drops to tug on her neck dangling in mid-air.

At her feet is a metal grate her clumsy footwork had obstructed. Apricot kneels lifting the grate off the ground when a delightful idea crosses her mind. The network of tunnels used for runoff beneath the metropolis connected every road together. With a grunt she tosses the grate aside. A smile graces her face as she descends the rungs into the subterranean tunnels.

“Come out with your hands up,” shouts the captain through a blue and white bullhorn. A squad of officers surround the front of the bank with their cars. The other bulk of the police hold the blockade as the disruptors try to gain ground.

“Get back or I will shoot!” yells a younger officer as the barricade snaps in half. He draws his pistol with a shaky hand screaming “Back up I said!” as the rebels get past the barrier. He levels the barrel to a young woman’s head of similar age. She freezes wide eyed mere inches from the gun. The two are suspended in time, the sound of the crowd drowns out as the officer stairs her down. The moment between the two is broken when another man latches onto the officers arm.

“Murderer!” screams someone in the crowd. The officer elbows the man in the face drawing back into the protection of his fellows.

“Enough of this rabble,” declares the chief to a policeman standing next to him. “Gas these sons of bitches.” A group of officers in full riot gear march towards the group holding long pipe cannons in hand. With a holler, the police release a series of canisters into the pack. The metal projectiles knock a few people to the ground as they descend. When they land they roll releasing a dense cloud of milky brown smoke. The protesters scream as it soon covers them in a haze of poison. They trample each other to avoid the spreading wall, their clothes reeking of the toxic fumes as they breach the plumes.

The police in front chatter to each other when they see the mirror glass door of the bank slide open. A man steps from the shadows with a girl coiled in his arm and a gun against her lower jaw. The man lowers his lips to the young woman’s ear. “Now darling remember what I said. If you move or say a word, I will spray your face all over the room. You got that?” she nods her head as tears drop off her cheeks. His voice is gruff, the trademark of an excessive smoker.

The captain of the police lifts a radio off his chest “Get me a sniper on him, fast.”

“Put down the gun sir, it will be better for everyone if everyone gets to leave today.” says the captain.

The man laughs. “I will put the gun down and even give you the girl.” A few officers approach the stairs with their guns drawn. “Back up you shit heads. Back up!” he says pulling the gun from the girl. Pointing towards the crowd. “Get back or else! If I see a boy in blue,” He presses the gun into the lady’s jaw moving her spongy skin. “Well, would not want to turn her pretty face into a scarlet fountain would we!” He points the gun back to the officers. “Move back I said! Go, now, do it!”

“The gun is off the girl take the shot.” The police chief says over the radio.

A bullet thunders from the adjacent building. The charge soars overhead through the man’s face. In an instant, the image of the hostage and the man flickered away leaving only a small softball sized orb at their feet. “Wrong move assholes!” replies the man over the bank’s intercom speakers.

“Shit!” gasps an officer as an explosion rolls out from the front of the bank. Fire bellows over the ground with shards of debris hitting several bystanders in the wave of heat winds. The remaining protesters ran for their lives along with several officers who crack under the pressure.

Apricot huddles to her knees and screams as the ground rumbles. The cables strung to the walls dangle causing the shadows to dance with the rocking lights in their metal cages. Apricot grabs her chest feeling her pounding heart through her shirt. Not too far from her are the metal rungs marking the exit. She could not get to them quickly enough after the booming shook her to the bone. Apricot looks up through the escape hatches metal bars to see blue sky much to her relief. Up the steps she scampers pushing open the grate to the surface.

A smile grows on Apricot’s face as she glances around the dirty backstreet lot to see several trash bins filled with assorted recyclables. She pulls herself up noting she is definitely behind the bank as a tall brick wall with nasty looking razor wire encloses the back-lot. Creeping out of the hole, Apricot allows the metal grate to slam shut with a loud clank. She turns towards the alleyway to observe police pulling people from a rubble torn street flowing with wavering smoke. “Was that a bomb? Who would use bombs for a bank robbery?” She questions aloud to herself. That seemed far too absurd to be the truth. Apricot remembers the Boken’s Sword rule to argument, the simplist answer is the most likely answer. So why would someone use a bomb?

Her hands fidget as a tense feeling washes over her. “Could this be a terrorist attack?” She bites her lip swallowing hard as this whole ordeal twisted from irresponsible to dangerous. “Can’t let nerves get to you girl. You want to be a reporter, nows the time to act like one,” she coaches herself.

Apricot lifts the camera to her face to see the viewfinder is black. She removes the camera from her eye to see the cap is dangling off the lens on a tinsel of white string. Returning the camera back to her eye she sees a hazel eye looking back. Instead of having lashes teeth surrounded the orb. “What the?” Apricot says under her breath. The teeth shut turning into a grin saying “Hello,” in a strange cartoon-like voice. She shrieks and throws the camera. Her hands cover her mouth shaking from the sudden fright. The sound of glass shattering directs her gaze to her feet. Sato’s camera lays broken on the ground.

Apricot drops to her knees lifting the now mangled camera. A small sob escapes her nostril as pieces of glass drop out of the lense onto the pavement. “No,” Apricot says under her breath while a tear runs down her cheek.

“Don’t move.” a young man demands. Apricot looks up to see a man in scruffy clothing holding a pistol. She felt pale as he bobs the nozzle. Apricot accepts the gesture as a direction to stand. She rises to her feet as the chili yellow eyes of this man with a strong jawline regards her. “Wow, he is handsome,” she says to herself.

“Now, why would a girl be out here?” he asks.

“I, I am a journalist. I am trying to get a few photos for my article.” Apricot says holding the broken camera in hand.

“Looks like you need a new camera.” The handsome man snickers. “You think I am an idiot or something?” he retorts. “You went through the sewers to get back here. Filthy. Are you sent by the cops? Got a wire on you?”

Apricot shakes her head. “No.”

“Sure, like you would tell me, anyway.” While the barrel faces Apricot, she felt as though it is the chambered bullet which interrogated her; like some kind of rabid dog, leashed waiting for word from its master, looking for reason to bore itself into her stomach, pleasured to do his work.

It breaks her thoughts when he continues. “There is one way you can prove you don’t.” He raises his head pointing his pistol at her chest. “Take em off.” Her face grows flush as the order rung in her head. With a deep breath Apricot places her fingers on her shirt. She pauses and swallows. “Go ahead.” he says with a perverse glint in his eye. She peals her coat from her stomach and lifts her undershirt from the band of her skirt.

“Wait.” the man says as he lowers the gun. His gaze diverts to the ground. “You don’t have to do that.” Apricot ponders if it is a trick. Then again, even if it is a trick, he would shoot her, regardless. Apricot lowers her shirt back to her stomach. The man pushes against the door with a clank against the brick wall. “After you.” He says directing her inside.

If she goes inside, she is not sure if she would live or die. The idea strikes her funny. She had her robbery article as a first-hand figure. The coin had flipped, no longer is she reporting on a story, she had become it. If she lived through this, she may hold the story of a lifetime. A book deal even. As she considers the possibilities a smile grows on her face. “What has you so happy? Got some sick fetish for being a hostage?” and in that instant, as she looked at the gun directed at her, the joy is gone. The fear of death snuggly placed in mind.

“How the hell do we get out of this?” says a man holding a pistol. He looks younger than the handsome man, a late teen, twitchy too; this makes him dangerous Apricot notes.

The man who captured her shook his head. “I don’t suppose we can just walk out the front door. The back is open, heh, reporter girl found a way through the tunnels. If we slip out though, I am sure we will get chased.”

A lady rests up against a bank teller‘s desk. She either has a resting bitch face or is ready to tear someone‘s head off. Apricot reasons she is in her late twenties or even early thirties judging by her mature yet smooth face. Unlike the other guy she did not carry a weapon but the long jacket she wore could conceal an arsenal. “Well, isn’t this great? We got a swarm of angry police in front, bright eyes is upstairs drooling like a madman, and now we got this kid hostage with us. This was not what we planned at all. What the hell was he thinking?”

“A bomb, Diago is insane.” moaned the young man. He paces in a circle carefully maintaining cover from the front.

Apricot sat on the floor of the decorated bank. In the lobby, the polished marble floor has a huge crack which she assumes is the remnant of the blast. The shattered glass around the windows allows smoke to flow into the room. It is diluted but stilled burned the nostrils.

Apricot decided it was best to just listen to the group bicker. The questions only grew as they complain. One thing above the rest troubles her. What did they expect to gain from a bank robbery? They had done away with paper money since the Emerald Mark became the new standard. She could not bite her tongue any longer. She had to know. “What was your plan?” Apricot burst out.

The handsome man glances over at her while the other two look at each other. “Told you she was an interesting one.” He says with a half smile.

The nervous man laughs. “Well, we aimed to get ourselves a hefty retirement plan… but it is looking like we got ourselves a funeral instead.”

“Maybe, you could turn yourselves in, I mean the bomb was not your idea. Turn on that… Diago guy. He does not seem like he cares much about you.” Apricot suggests.

The girl glances at Apricot taking measured steps towards her. From her side, she draws a thin slab. With a click, the slab reveals a spring-loaded blade. She bends next to Apricot placing the flat of the blade against her cheek. “Comedian, keep talking and I will carve a smile all over your face from bloody ear to bloody ear.”

The handsome man smiles letting off a chuckle that is far too calm. “I kind of like the comedian, someone has to be funny around here. Might as well be her.” She taps the tip of the blade on Apricot’s cheek leaving a small superficial cut. Her brown eyes locking with Apricot’s give a sharp warning. She yields the threatening blade to her palm and stands to her feet.

“She might be right.” The nervous man stifles a snicker. “I mean, I ah, I don’t want to die. We had no part in the bomb. That was all Diego’s plan. Heh damn, I mean, how do you explain that?”

“Diago, what is he doing up there?” the calm man says. “I knew deckjocky was just a plug head.”

“He will still come through for us, right?” the young man laughs. “I mean… he rigged that bomb up… with that holosim from upstairs. Think he has a way of getting out of here?”

“Only one way to find out.” the girl with the blade looks over at the calm, handsome man.

“Yeah, yeah, I will check on our little decker… see if he’s done.” The man jumps off the desk and lowers his hand to Apricot. “I want a body as collateral though.” Her heart flutters leaving her to question her own sensibilities. “Hey reporter girl, mind being my shield?” He grabs Apricot’s hand lifting her to her feet. “Come on it’s this way.”

The man had led Apricot upstairs to the second floor of the bank. Over the mezzanine, the over-watch gave a view of the outside. While uncomfortable with the anxiety of having a barrel pointed to her head. Apricot felt more at ease with him than with that lady downstairs; even still, the gun to her head told her otherwise. “So, just down the hall. I don’t want a sniper to blow my head off so please walk in front of me?”

Huddled next to her the man presses himself into Apricot’s backside. She blushes feeling his chest against her rear as they inch towards the door. Outside she can see several police with their guns drawn while others walked around casually holding papers. The crowd of people had mostly dispersed.

Inside the room, there is a girl in the corner with tears streaming over her face. She sobs to herself while a man sits in front of a computer. A pistol rests on the desk along with a camera setup with several cables stretching from his hands and tiny metal pieces spread out of his fingers. They clicked on the keys typing at a fast rate. Apricot immediately felt sick to her stomach. This twisted form before her was once human. Now he looks as though he was something artificial, like a monster out of a horror film. “Hey, Diego, you almost done? You pissed off the cops with that light show of yours.”

“Did I?” he chuckles. “I wasn’t aware.”

The man beats his fist on the table “Yeah, now get your ass in gear cause we sure as hell are running out of time and I don’t intend to die here.”

“What? But the party has just started.” He snickers. “They got impressive countermeasure electronics. I got through the first couple phases. Think they got a real nice buried treasure. The downstairs vaults are unlocked anyway, load up what you can. I will have all the tunnels open for you in a few. Was not expecting this stuff ya know. If you give me some time though… I think I can find something more valuable. They equipped this place with naked body scanners. Bet that is worth something too.”

“Listen, pervo, get us a freaking bank train so we can get the hell out of here.” the handsome man hollers.

“Tanj! You ain’t no fun.” Diago grumbles. “Including where you gonna go? You don’t think the tunnels are swarming with police by now?”

“Just get it done.”

“Are you a runner?” Apricot asks. The black-haired lady in the corner looks up with plain shock. Apricot had heard about people who did this sort of thing. It was not the normal kind of theft but rather they needed certain location to get into closed systems. These people often left slaughter in their path. The need to remove witnesses is of the upmost importance. However, like wizards the machines used to surveil the people could not track them. They vanish from recorded footage and with some knowledge of tech they could move in ways most others could not. Most of the time selling their goods on the black market of the black market.

Diago glances from his screen at Apricot. “The eyes, they are wrong,” Apricot thought to herself. “Like the dolls in the shop windows of Akubashi street.”

“Who’s the girl?”

“Hostage like your‘s.” The handsome man says patting Apricot on the butt with his hand. A chill ran down her spine. She wanted to slap him but resists the urge. “A reporter.”

“Huh, shit man, if you don’t get that one creased soon, I’ll reconfig her myself. Expert witness, you know joy boy.” She didn’t understand all the words but gathered the jist, he wanted her dead. A threat Apricot wouldn’t take lightly. The other girl’s wide eye’s gave Apricot the impression she thought much the same.

Apricot can feel the handsome man press the tip of the cold barrel through the back of her uniform. “You worry about our getaway.” Apricot is not entirely sure how to take the situation. The handsome man appears to have morals. At least he did not seem like he wants her dead. Then again, she knew her emotions are twisted up into a knot. He drives her towards the hall “You know the drill girl, don’t let them yellow boys blow off my head now.”

From the ground floor, a deep voice thunders “On your knees!” followed by a retinue of commands.

“Ta hell is that!” shouts Diago. The handsome man pushes Apricot onto the floor holding out his gun.

Several ghostly figures drop through the marble ceiling onto the floor. The cloaks they wore bend the light to mirror the surroundings. If not for the shimmering the cloaked figures would be invisible Apricot thought. They throw off the cloaks to show themselves as armored police pointing their guns to the criminals. “Got ya.” a mechanically synthesized voice calls.

“You did.” replies the handsome man. He swivels his body drawing a blade from his spinning torso and stabs the knife against the thick armored collar. The blade scrapes against the black Kevlar. The butt of the officer’s rifle impacts into the man’s head knocking him to the floor.

Diego jumps onto the table, knocking the seat into the wall. He swings his arm sending the computer smashing into an officer. The cables whip back into his left hand. He meets the rifle of an officer as he points his right hand in their direction.

“You son of a bitch!” Diago howls. His forearm splits open with a mechanical groan revealing a hidden uzi. “Ratatat!” the gun roars. Apricot covers her ears with both hands dropping onto her knees. To her horror, she watches a smoking bullet land between her knees. She lets out a scream of her own crescendoing the many ricochets.

She kicks away from the smoldering bullet into the wall getting as far from it as she can. “Ah-ahahahaa!” Diago cackles. She screams as her back sank into a pair of arms. She looks up to see the gray and blue hosed mask of an officer covering her within their cloak. Inside the cloak is bright. The fabric became a screen showing bodies around the room and making the walls appear translucent.

Apricot watches as the red silhouette of the handsome man swept his foot knocking the other officer onto the floor. “I got you honey!” says a muffled female voice. The officer leans back lifting her through the bank’s wall. An intense tingling sensation came over Apricot as they do the impossible. The officer plummets as a swooping bird with Apricot as her prize clutched in her arms. Landing with a heavy thud on the pavement below she realizes she is thrashing and screaming.

Her mind is racing with questions the largest of them is “What just happened?“ Did they jump through a wall? Cradled in the officer’s arms Apricot looks up into the iron blue mask. The eye shields shine a bright red color. Two air hoses run along the sides of the solid neck shields.

“It’s all right mam, you are safe now.” The police officer set Apricot to her feet. She rose to her full stance gripping a clip on the side of her mask. It clicks with an airy hiss as she lifts the helmet off allowing her long black hair to come cascading out. She has white irises, how unique Apricot thought to herself. “Are you ok? Hun?” she asks with a rural mainlander accent. Apricot looks on wide eyed with a slack jaw. “I got to thank you. Your little sneaking escapade allowed me to get inside the backdoor without anyone noticing,”

She watches another officer jump through the wall with the black-haired lady. He unfurls her asking “Mam, do you need medical attention?” The lady just wails in his arms.

“This is the life police have, so dangerous.” The words came off her tongue without intending to.

“You are lucky to miss. I have not seen many kids walk out of something like that.” The officer says to her.

Apricot broke out of her trance before turning to the armored woman saying “Forgive me.” She bows as low as she could “Thanks for saving me. I am in your debt.”

“All in a day’s work miss.” The officer says with a smile.

A man in uniform walks towards her holding a clipboard. “You’re a student, huh?” He says looking at Apricot’s tattered uniform. “What were you doing inside the bank?”

Apricot’s heart sank knowing full well she is on camera. “That is a funny story…” she says biting her nails. She relayed the events that lead to her becoming a hostage. Much to the officer’s amusement.

“Press huh, well, I will have to report this to your superiors and let them decide what is to be done with you. Understand me.” The man says waving a finger at Apricot. She nods. “Good girl put in a good word. Got it, girl? Now would you come with me? We need to get your account on record so you can be on your way.”

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