Prime Minister Norine Maciel looked out the window as the First Spaceship taxied around New Moscow’s Space Port. Half the passenger bay remained undamaged; the Senators viewed their needed feeds of information. Norine glanced down at stats that Chatterjee had gathered from Colonel Oltman. 3% chance of New Moscow stopping the First Spaceship before it left the bio-dome. 7% chance of New Moscow firing on the First Spaceship outside the bio-dome and claiming it was self-defense. She only had to click for her personal % chance of survival in either eventuality.
In the end, their departure went smoothly. Norine noticed Guen-hye breathe a heavy sigh of relief. They moved quickly to the edge of the atmosphere. They were about an hour away from New Jerusalem.
“Can we risk a visual feed from the N.J. ghetto?” the Prime Minister asked Samoset.
“Risk it?” asked Samoset dryly. “Half the planet’s watching.”
Samoset populated the bay’s working monitors with images and vids from sources as diverse as personal rings and Mars United satellites. Most of the Ten-Percenters were in a hand-to-hand melee with scores of street thugs. Norine knew she might have put the Ten-Percenters in greater jeopardy with that reckless phone call. Nothing she could do now, shigata ka nei. She checked a sign in the bottom left corner that confirmed the feed was live.
Falke was smiling broadly. Norine narrowed her eyes at him.
“Sorry, Madam,” said Falke. “It’s just Sapolu…I love the way he fights. Come on, not too many big guys can move like that.”
The Prime Minister turned the vid into the room’s dominant holo. Where the wángbā was Martina? That large warehouse to the left?
Yoshimura said, “Wait, who’s that?”
In the midst of chaos, Norine saw what Yoshimura saw, a window breaking from one corner of the warehouse…and two soldiers crawling out upon the ledge.
“I’ve got confirmation,” Samoset said cheerfully. “That’s it. That’s Goldberg and Martina.”
Oh thank God she’s safe was Norine’s first thought.
In the next moment, she watched her daughter plunge herself into the fight. Wángbā, Martina, Norine thought. Do you have to be quite this reckless?
Norine watched the Ten-Percenters pole-vault to their getaway vehicle. As the vehicle converted into its hovertank shape, she felt her body un-tense. My daughter is safe. Only a nuke could bring down that thing. Rhodes isn’t that crazy – is he? Norine knew it was a little early to run the sims…
“You can talk to Martina as soon as…” Weaver trailed off as they all watched Martina bound away from the hovertank.
Norine stood straight up. “No, no, no!”
Martina sprang out of their satellite cam’s field of vision as the rest of the Ten-Percenters jumped inside the hovertank.
Madam Prime Minister commanded, “Get me Chee on the line!”
Samoset said, “He’s live, Madam.”
“Chee!” roared Norine, even as she watched the hovertank leave the ground, as ghetto civilians threw everything they had at it.
“Yes, Ma’am,” said Chee’s voice.
“What just happened?”
“…Martina didn’t want to come with us, Ma’am.”
“Did you order her?”
“So now you’re going to get her?”
“Doing it, Ma’am,” answered Chee.
“Madam,” said Samir Samoset, “I found some alternate feeds. Bringing them up…”
The bay’s screens filled with various amateur feeds. A few of them made the situation clear: Martina was chasing another woman from rooftop to rooftop. In some of the vids, you could even glimpse their two faces – sweating like Olympic runners.
“We have an ID,” said Chatterjee. “This woman goes by Azalea. She was in the battle of Melas – uh, Binto City. We think she trained on Earth in various gravity environments and Rhodes brought her here for special ops.”
“Who cares?” said Jodie Weaver.
Chatterjee coughed. “We also think she may have been the one who planned the mall attack.”
Samoset reset the room holo. They all watched a satellite’s eye view as the hovertank flew within ten meters of Martina, riding alongside her, matching her step for step. Norine barked into her the com, “Al-Basani, put me on megaphone.”
“It’s done,” Al-Basani replied. “You’re live, Ma’am.”
“Martina!” yelled the Prime Minister. “Can you hear me?”
“Mom, tell them to shoot her!” Martina’s voice was distant, but clear enough to her mother.
“Martina, they can’t pick you up if you keep running like that. Cease and desist.”
“Mom, she almost killed your grandchild!” yelled Martina, barely losing pace.
“I know that. But we haven’t seen her do anything.”
“Mom, you didn’t see her beat me within an inch of my life?!”
“Mi’ija, stand down. That’s an order.”
“Mom, she’s not Rhodes. You don’t have Chatterjee giving you a percentage telling you which voters you’d lose.”
“Don’t mi’ija me, Mom!” shouted Martina. “You’d do it for Julia, wouldn’t you? Shoot this bitch!”
On the First Spaceship, Norine looked at Samoset, Guen-hye, Falke and Weaver, ignoring Yoshimura and Ngorongoro. Samoset shrugged his shoulders; Guen-hye affected passivity; Weaver nodded; Falke smiled.
“Chee,” said the Prime Minister, “Fire when ready.”
The hovertank re-positioned, aimed, and fired, just missing Azalea. The errant shot caused a water tower to explode.
The vid feeds lost visual of Azalea.
Norine sprang to her feet. “Where is she?!”
Samoset said, “Hang on…”
“Madam?” Al-Basani’s voice came over the com. “The target leapt down to the street.”
“Fine,” sighed Norine. “Then just pick up Martina.”
“Uh…” Al-Basani seemed to be searching for the right tone, “Martina ran after her.”
Norine banged her fist on the console. This needed to be over. “Why can’t I just see what the tank sees?”
“If you’re more than a hundred k m from here,” Chee’s voice said, “civilians will intercept that signal. For the sake of security, we don’t…”
“They’re already getting our audio aren’t they? Just send me the wángbā feed, Chee,” Norine barked. “That’s an order.”
The passenger bay’s room holo now showed the hovertank’s-eye view of the action. They saw Azalea and Martina perhaps 100 meters ahead, sprinting down the street. Azalea ran over a minor canal; Martina followed right after her.
“They’ve been running for almost two kilometers,” Falke said. “They’re almost downtown.”
Six Senators and Norine Maciel watched as Azalea ran into the mini-Petronas towers. They looked like Kuala Lumpur’s famous buildings, but were one-fourth scale – 22 floors instead of the real Petronas’ 88 floors – because they were built when this part of New Jerusalem was a snow globe. After the dome came down, the towers were never re-modeled.
Martina ran in to the towers after her.
“Madam,” Samoset said, “Pharealth and BankBank and Dupowme, at least, have offices in there.”
“And Facrogle,” said Weaver.
Samoset brushed that off. “Azalea wants you to fire on her. Imagine how that’s going to play in the polls.”
“Ma’am, I heard that and I have to agree,” Chee put in. “I think it’s safest to wait out here for them.”
The hovertank hovered around the tops of the two towers like a vulture waiting for a rodent to die. Norine paced furiously; the First Spaceship couldn’t possibly get to New Jerusalem fast enough. They were still at least 30 minutes away.
“Madam Prime Minister?” said a voice on the com. “It’s Goldberg.”
“Yes, Goldberg?” replied Norine.
“I’m a little concerned that all of this has been an elaborate trap.”
“What makes you say that?”
“They were holding Martina captive in a cell behind a medieval dungeon door. When I got there, she was breaking out by picking the lock. As you know, no one uses those doors or locks anymore.”
“Where are you going with this, Goldberg?” asked Norine.
“I’m saying, maybe they were weakening Martina while at the same time trying to get Martina to think she could outsmart them?”
“To what end?”
“I’m not sure, but…obviously they could have just killed her, or tortured her, and broadcast the vid. But…they probably wanted something else.”
“What?” Norine had run out of patience.
But Goldberg stopped, arrested by events. Through the hovertank’s view, Norine saw Martina and Azalea emerging onto, and fighting inside, the skybridge. Martina appeared to have the upper hand. She threw Azalea into one of the glass walls. Azalea staggered and trembled.
Martina backed up, a fighter ready to deliver the death blow. Norine watched as her daughter leaped with one foot prominently out, set to kick Azalea’s head in.
At that moment, the wall-size window popped open like a garage door. Both women fell out of it, but Azalea clung to the walkway, looking as though a magnet on her ring was helping her. Even from this far away, Norine thought she caught a trace of a smile on this dangling woman’s lips. Goldberg had been right.
Norine watched helplessly as Martina sailed out of the skybridge, her bo now useless. It had to be at least a 30 meter fall, and the two buildings were way too far apart to pinball. For Norine, seeing the panic in her daughter’s eyes brought back the worst feelings from suffocating-in-space exercises Norine had once done. Norine suddenly couldn’t inhale or exhale. Jodie Weaver put her arm around her shoulders as only another mother could do.
The hovertank had to turn ninety degrees to follow Martina; after that, it only had a few seconds to try to catch her before she hit the ground. It almost made it. Instead, the hovertank provided a viral vid for both worlds – a front-row seat – as Martina Maciel landed crunch onto an urban lawn.