The red haired woman held Tobias tightly to the floor.
He couldn’t understand it. He had a heavier build than she did and yet every time he struggled she was able to turn his body weight against him. He reached his right arm out to grab her and she jabbed it with her elbow. He tried to kick her and she kneed him in the crotch.
She was far fitter than him too. Years of dedicating himself to his research and using his mind as his greatest weapon had kept him lean and a lack of physical fitness had let his once strong muscles weak.
By contrast, the red haired woman had the body of a gymnast and the power to match. She could move with sheer grace and knew exactly the right way to position her body weight to gain the advantage. He was outmatched in every way.
After much struggling he resisted and allowed his body to rest flat on the floor. “OK you win,” he said.
The doors to the studio opened and a team of men and women dressed in grey and green patterned army gear appeared, each of them with a playing card held around their neck. Tobias couldn’t make the cards out from this distance but it was clear they weren’t all the same. “Very effective use of branding,” he mocked. “We could use someone like you on the marketing team.”
Tobias estimated around twenty men and women with playing cards now stood in the studio, alongside the motionless crowd. They all seemed very young, like toddlers compared to Tobias. None of them over thirty.
Despite being outnumbered Tobias was pleased that his backup plan could easily take on twenty people. A hundred would be a far more interesting test but this would have to do.
The red haired woman motioned to two guards who walked over and grabbed Tobias, allowing her to walk away and answer a phone call.
Tobias could not hear what she said but something had clearly upset her.
Whilst she spoke on the phone Tobias thought about how clever his captor’s plan had been; overloading the senses of everyone in the room by dazzling them with an intense light. They’d caused everyone to experience a Tether event and stay stuck in place.
“You’re all so clever aren’t you?” teased Tobias.
She hung up the call and Tobias could see she looked flustered.
“How strange to see someone so confident in such a state of discomfort,” he told her.
She ignored him and whispered something to one of the army men. Moments later she was gone.
“Aww,” Tobias wanted more participants for his experiment but this would have to do. He smiled knowing it wouldn’t be long now.
The red haired woman continued her walk from the building. Grace Wilkerson hated leaving mid-mission, especially when the target was as high profile as Tobias Zen but she trusted her team mates and this was a matter of life and death.
She had handed Tobias over to two of her team. One of the men; Gabe, was the most muscular of the group, especially in his arms which filled the sleeves of his army uniform pulling it tight. It was something which she had always liked about him and she could confidently confirm that those muscles continued down to the six-pack on his stomach.
She loved his hair most of all, which was a very dark brown, almost black in colour that rose up in the middle and spiralled down either side like a peacock’s feathers. He had light stubble that flowed across his face and his broad chin.
For all intents and purposes he was the leader of their team, a burden that she knew weighed heavily on him and she could see this in the bags under his eyes and the age that had started to show on his face despite him being in his early twenties.
The other man Chris, was very tall, six foot five by her estimations which also made him very lean. He had spiky brown hair and long sideburns. His youthful face showed no sign of a wrinkle and combined with his blue eyes made him seem younger than he really was. He was the newest member of the group so was a little headstrong but she knew that Gabe would keep him in check.
She knew her friends would do a good job. She climbed onto her motorcycle and drove out into the night.
As she rode along the motorway the neon lights from her bike flashed across the road. A stream of red lights snaked behind her arching around towards the front to form the shape of an angel’s wings.
She loved riding, especially at night; she enjoyed having the roads to herself.
She passed a billboard for a company called ‘TethTech’ which showed a man and woman holding each other in bed. The man had his chest exposed and the woman had one leg and arm draped across his chest. She was covered by a single white sheet. At the back of the billboard was another man who looked identical to the first. He was watching the couple as they embraced, with a shocked look on his face.
In large letters on the poster were the words “Innocent Blocking Devices, by TethTech”, with a further line underneath which read “There are some things twins shouldn’t have to share. Keep your intimate moments secret. Available at all chemists.”
She looked at the billboard and it made her laugh. The idea of a twin watching her having sex made her uneasy and she wondered if this was perhaps the greatest invention in all mankind.
These roads had seen better days, back when the Government still invested in public infrastructure. Back when their burden of debt didn’t make every non-essential service a massive liability.
When the world lost the tax income of one billion people it started to become harder to sustain life the way it had been. The economy had been built to scale and investments had been set in motion for the existing population. Suddenly millions of products went unsold as there were less people to buy them forcing the economy to collapse. Whilst all of this happened corporations were continually finding new ways to avoid paying tax through offshore loopholes, just to keep themselves afloat and to offset the loss from not selling their products.
The country, in fact all countries, had become unsustainable. With it, millions lost their jobs and the key public services fell into the hands of the public.
“Want better roads? Get out and fix them. Want healthcare? Find a friend who is a doctor.”
That was the way the world worked now. If you couldn’t do something yourself, then you found someone to help or you paid through the odds.
It split the country into two types of people.
The haves: Those who had money, who worked in or ran large corporations. Those who could afford luxury goods, who never went hungry and who had everything they could want.
The have-nots: Those for whom money no longer had any meaning. People who had to rely on bartering and trading one item for another in order to get by.
It saved our economy. The Government finally had enough money to pay off their debts, simply by leaving the weakest members of society to fend for themselves. If you were one of those with money, then life had never been so good.
What money the Government did have left, they poured into public defence funds. As Great Britain regained its power and financial stability, people started to feel that we would become a target from other countries that had not seen the same recovery.
Countries that put their people first had collapsed. They had kept their pride until the end, hoping that other countries would work together to help them, yet ultimately everyone lost out. At least in Britain the rich had stayed rich, even if the poor had no healthcare and no support.
In amongst this chaos Grace had found her home in an organisation known as ‘The Deck’. She thought of it as her calling.
Most people called Grace a terrorist. She preferred to think of herself as restoring the balance. A small cog, in a larger machine that was working to put the world right again.
Stopping Tobias was the first step towards a better world and as she rode down the motorway she knew she was heading for the next step.