23 | MIDNIGHT MISSION
Tess dropped them off at Merlion Drive using the van, leaving them to walk to their targets’ home themselves.
The street lamps glowed, light reflecting off the skyscrapers’ glass windows, glimmering elegantly. The Errors had never been here before, in the more affluent part of the city where the ground level was full of lush greenery, patio paths and park benches, unlike the CC which was next to the hospital; the area was associated with all things gloomy and inauspicious, more specifically sickness and suffering. This part of the city screamed luxury; even the air smelled better.
Normally, they would be enjoying this; Eli could imagine himself being in hyper mode if Louis had ever suggested taking them here to even get a glimpse of the high SES people. Just a few months ago, the idea of striding through the city in cool, full-black gear would’ve sounded like a fantasy to him.
How funny that being holed up, training in a strange place full of horrors, topped off with minimal contact with those he cared about had changed it all.
Their boots clicked softly against the path as they headed down the empty streets (normal people were all tucked in their beds, as per the curfew that ensured everyone got sufficient sleep for a new, productive day). For a few moments, everything felt almost peaceful in this momentary freedom (that would hopefully lead them to actual freedom, if the note sender was on their side).
Ethan broke the silence, calling out to the girl taking the lead. “Eris, how much further to the apartment?”
“We’re near. Just three more minutes,” she replied as the cyan arrow in her field of vision glowed, leading her to take a left turn, where the Errors found themselves standing before Crenshaw Towers, where their targets lived.
Em and Eli were about to continue forward as Eris swiftly threw both arms back to block them. “Wait,” her cold voice was strained, “I need to bypass the security.”
As Eris’ eyes glowed a little brighter and she worked her magic, the others fell back to the pavement, out of the security scan range. Em pulled out the SmartGlass Mini to review the details of their targets, apprehensively.
Cordelia Wong and Daryl Chan were a married couple, both in their forties. Cordelia was a minister while Daryl owned a law firm—ergo, doing well in their careers. Em continued scrolling, getting more and more upset as she read—they donated regularly to charity, never had any owed fines and whatnot… and yet their danger markers were labelled as a political threat? Heck, they’d even donated to the CC—was that why they were in trouble?
She shoved the thing back into her jacket pocket and zipped it up, turning back to the boys, who were both standing around awkwardly.
“Do you think it’s gonna go smoothly?” She asked, hoping that Eli could understand the subtext.
“Oh! I’m sure that if we do everything right, it’s gonna be fine!” The blond boy instantly jumped in to reply with his typical radiant smile—one that Em and Ethan could easily notice as forced.
At the very least, he knows what I’m trying to get at, Em thought as she looked down at her wristband—the filthy, wretched thing that they’d been shackled too once again, yet another tool to oppress free discussion. For safety monitoring purposes, they’d said.
“We’re through. Come on.”
Eris’ words interrupted her thoughts as they trudged on.
As much as they feared the computer in her, they could all already see why the government wanted this for Eris. The girl was unstoppable, bypassing security as quickly as it took them to brisk walk to the lift lobby. Matched with the fact that Eris was a fast learner and highly intellectual, it made perfect sense.
The only weakness she had was a potential inability to have free will and her own opinion, given that she only considered the most logical route. And she knew that.
Just as they clipped on their night vision glasses, the lift doors opened to reveal #18-03 of 33 Rentis Street. Eris hissed a soft ‘shhh’ at Eli before he could let out a gasp at seeing the fancy decor above the shoe rack. She could admit that the painting was of undeniably exemplary craftwork, but they couldn’t afford to mess this up.
On tiptoe, they crept through the darkness of the apartment, past the milk-coloured leather couch and the dining area with its pretty gemstone-studded chandelier after Eris had forced the apartment AI into shutting down. Beyond the glass window that reached till the ceiling, the streetlamps illuminated the city beneath.
“The estimated location for the file should be somewhere here in the living room,” Eris whispered, the scanner illuminating her eyes as they located rectangular objects most similar to the manila folder they were searching for. “Em, Eli, you take the cupboard, the feature wall and the coffee table. I think there’s some kind of secret safe over there, and I’m gonna figure it out. Ethan, you keep watch.”
Instructions given, they got down to business. Gloved fingers began flipping through the couple’s belongings as Eris stood near what seemed to be the secret wall.
“Maybe it requires DNA or something,” Eris said flatly as Em came over and started tapping all over.
“Well, screw this.”
Eli, after having no luck in locating a folder that fit the description of which they’d been briefed, left the coffee table and decided to go on to the cupboard. With a gloved hand wrapped around the handle, he slowly pulled the door open—
And he opened his mouth to scream at the still figure of a man within.
The others turned at the gunshot with pale faces as Eli crumpled to the ground, the turquoise liquid of a tranquiliser draining out of a vial in the dart and into his bloodstream. Instinctively, they raised their weapons in defense, swiftly approaching the cupboard.
The hand popped out of the cupboard and shot thrice, in the opposite direction of the Errors. Three turquoise vials hovered in the air for a split second—
—then swerved through the air with deadly precision to strike Em and Ethan in their necks.
As her fellow teammates hit the ground, Eris continued dodging the bullet programmed for her as it zipped through the air, attempting to break her skin. The high-tech brain of hers was a great help, estimating the travel of the thing, but the bullet had to be shut down ASAP.
She jumped behind the white couch as she tracked the bullet, attempting to get into the system as fast as she could. She was so sure she’d done everything right—
ACCESS DENIED (PARENTAL ACCESS)
Shock had never once registered in Eris, yet she knew that if she was normal, these words would ‘send a shiver down her spine’.
Parents, she thought, the bullet which’d swerved down to hit her clamped in between her two fingers in a narrow catch. The turquoise vial continued to squirm and quake in between her fingers as she gripped it firmly, not wanting it to escape and hit her.
In that momentary refuge, she did what she knew she had to do.
INITIATE RECORDER SHUTDOWN.
The cyan scanners vanished from view as the administrator sign disappeared.
And then, a strong hand pinned her down brusquely against the ground as another dart slammed into her from behind, secreting the liquid that almost instantly stole the light from her vision.