Daze walked towards the Hayden building to enter the Security Complex through the employee tunnels. It really was an admirable system of deception. She did not see anything she was doing, as wrong. Leaving the city was an option that should be available to her and anyone else. It seemed odd that Longfellow thought it was such a clandestine affair. He really did seem like a nice guy, but he seemed to have some sort of persecution complex. She supposed that after living a life away from the natural world, people can get too wrapped up in a materialistic worldview and begins to see the demons of human designs everywhere.
She walked into the acquisition center to pick up her uniform to find three officers waiting there in full combat armor. Richard Prescott stood between them in his sharp black city suit. He turned leisurely and stared at her with an air of confidence that bordered on arrogance.
Without a word he motioned for her to go into one of the rooms adjacent to the center. She smiled in a friendly way and walked ahead of him into the room. Two of the guards followed her in, while the third remained outside.
Without saying a word Prescott flipped on the monitor which showed her entering Longfellow’s cubicle. Daze shrugged and motioned for him to get to the point. He stood their staring at her.
“Are you upset because we didn’t put on more of an erotic show for you?”
He let out a short snort at her obvious humor and motioned for her to sit down in the chair.
“You definitely make things interesting for me. I haven’t forwarded this tape to the council yet. I don’t know if you’re just ignorant of the way the world works here, or if you are deliberately trying to cause problems? After less than a week on the security force, you are seen offering aid and comfort to the most wanted man in Tucson.”
Daze sat down across from him and stared at him directly without blinking.
“Is there some sort of law against whom I can and can’t spend my time with? How can he be the most wanted man if you never charge him with a crime and you even had him in your custody less than 24 hours ago only to release him free and clear?”
Prescott did not back down from her stare.
“You know damn well why we do the things we do here. I have let you in on the system and I expect that if you want to be an officer that you will adhere to it. So let’s just cut the bull shit and level with each other. You are planning on leaving the city with him. I can’t allow that. There is too much that we have tied up with that kid, too much depends on him being here as the perpetual threat. We can manufacture the attacks and the propaganda, but nothing brings people under our system more securely than an actual living threat that shows his face and moves around.”
“There are still some of those people around who participated in the Kool-Ade rebellion. There are some people who want to return this city to a free state. Things have changed out there though, we no longer have the option of expelling people out of the city, thanks to that crazy bastard in California, there aren’t going to be any new immigrants coming into the city. If we can’t maintain the population, everything falls apart.”
“This isn’t about any kind of crazy ideals; all we do here is protecting the species from extinction. I have no interest in politics or ruling people’s lives; they are free to do whatever they want here as long as they don’t hurt anyone else. Some people on the council may have some aspirations to power, but even those are mild and minor impositions.
“I am being straight with you because I remember what your father did. If you try to take him out of here, I will have to stop you. I don’t care if you want to have a relationship with this man, but I will not let you become a part of his schemes. I have seen what a samurai can do. I would have no choice but to kill you.”
Daze smacked her lips in a casual way and placed both hands on the table pushing herself up. The two guards drew a bead on her and red dots appeared tracing their way along her body before coming to rest on her head.
“Beware the day when a state grows so powerful as to demand of its citizens the dictates of their own conscious. Your system is the problem; it destroys the spirits of the people that live under it. You glorify the annals of history as a materialistic god. This is the metaphysics of your socialist state, and it is the right of every man to choose whether or not to live under its rule.”
“You have treated me with nothing but honor, so I shall offer to leave you in peace. Please do not try to stop me, or it is I who will have to kill you and I take no pleasure in killing honorable men.”
Daze smiled as Prescott lowered his head and shook it back and forth in disappointment.
“I thought I could reason with you. I thought you might understand.”
Daze placed her hand on his shoulder and brought his head up to her with her hand.
“Strategy is different from other things in that if you mistake the Way even a little you will become bewildered and fall into bad ways. You have fallen, Mr. Prescott. It is impossible that anyone should become a protector of the people to whom they have not yielded the subjugation of their hearts.”
He stared at the red dots that crawled upon her face.
“Take her down!”
Daze’s hand flung out towards the guard catching him in the shoulder joint of his armor. He spun to the side opening fire on the guard next to him. He fire ricocheted off his armor as she ducked down below the table. Her leg swung out and brought the stunned guard down close enough for her to grab his rifle. She pointed it directly at Prescott as the third guard burst through the door.
“It’s not too late. No one has to die. Just let us leave the city and you can tell whatever lie you want to the world.”
Her laser sight was locked onto Prescott’s forehead.
“You’re not going to get out of here. You can kill me if you want, but there is no way out of this complex. In fact, I don’t even think you would kill me.”
Daze paused and then hit him with the butt of the rifle. She pushed him forward at the guards and leaped out of the door closing it behind her. She turned to the guard in the acquisition desk and screamed at him in panic.
“We have an emergency situation! Call all units code 459! Don’t let them out of the room they have Prescott as a hostage!”
The sirens screamed and the lights along the hall flashed as the area became filled with armored troops. She fell back from the door as she heard the automatic lock slip into place, sealing them in. she turned and ran into the glass enclosure and tossed the rifle to the acquisition’s clerk.
“I need my gear, number 137.”
She gave him her ID card and he popped the locker door. She grabbed the body armor suit as well as her swords and guns. She left the standard issue guns inside. She had no need to steal from them.
Daze quickly donned the suit and made her way out of the building amid the security scramble. She ran down the street pulling off her gear as she went. People looked at her astonished that a guard would act this way.
As she came to the shore of the river she dove in and swam across to the opposite side, hoping that the water would malfunction the suits tracking capabilities. As she pulled herself up out of the water she saw a form standing unsteadily in front of her.
In one hand he had a rolled up piece of canvass, and in the other a metal pole which he leaned upon.
“You’re already famous. I was just headed down to the complex when I heard all the alarms; I knew it had to be you. No one else in this town is that stupid except me.”
She grabbed him and placed her arm around him.
“We are going to have to move fast. It won’t take them long to get organized and they can track us all over the city.”
He thrust the map into her hands.
“There is no way we are going to make it. About three blocks to the south, there is an access tunnel leading to the water treatment facility? Before you argue, I am going to follow you, but not right now. They won’t touch me, I am Teflon here, and I’ll follow as soon as I can. Make your way to Phoenix, there are some people there who will meet you and set you up in the city. I don’t know what the radiation levels are up there, but if you have to move on just leave word with them and I’ll follow you as soon as I can.”
He kissed her hard and with full intent.
“I told them you were coming, so they should be able to smuggle you in past the security. I promise I will find you.”
Daze paused briefly before turning and heading up the street. He called after her.
“Just watch the Ballyhoo Networks, I’ll send you a message!”
Daze dove into the small opening that acted as an overflow reservoir and jumped down into the water below. Her city suit clung to her now and she tore off the sleeves and adjusted her swords. The guns were probably going to be useless for awhile until she could find a place to dry them out. She unrolled the drawing and could see the starting point marked on her left arm. She made her way forward marking note of any irregularities she could use as compass points.
The tunnels were tall enough to stand up in easily and a few places even had toe paths to walk along outside the water. She made better time, but felt the weight of the water every time she rose out of the river. The thought of William filled her mind. Here she was again, leaving the world and everyone who trusted her behind. She was just constantly on the run now. Even if she did make to Phoenix, they will have labeled her a fugitive. More people were waiting there to put their lives in danger, just because she wouldn’t bow to the system.
She thought about turning back, but there was nothing for her there now either. She would be killed if she headed back. Shattered fragments of hope lay before her, but only the shadow of death lay behind.
Daze stopped to rest along the side of the wall. Pushing her way through the water was tiring her out and it was a long way to Phoenix. She would wait for Longfellow in Phoenix, she wouldn’t leave him behind. Even if that meant she had to come back for him. There was a promise of a life with him, and that was all she had right now. Just a promise.