The little combie slued beneath her and corkscrewed into a savage right turn that pressed her into the padding of her seat. She grunted from the pressure of the restraining field and twisted her head to follow the orange beam as it flashed past. Her skin prickled and her hair tried to stand on end from the near-field effect of the beam.
Despite the loud thudding of her heart and the clamminess of her hands, she was not afraid any more. Death would be a welcome release now. She had known a flash of real terror - terror that had gripped her chest in a vice of pain that made every breath a shuddering gasp. Earlier, with the incriminating intelligence safely recorded, she had extracted herself from Kapel's executive offices as smoothly as she had come in, as her training had taught her. Waiting for the cable-tube to bring her up to the small landing ramp on the roof, she allowed herself a small smile of satisfaction. Garner's vaunted security had been easier to penetrate than Kapel's lies. Or so she had thought.
Running out of Kapel's offices, she scrambled into the combie and waited as the power plant spooled up. The combie gently lifted, then surged into the cold night sky. Raman's sprawl blazed with light beneath her. Above her, lines of traffic streamed in all directions. She activated the comms system and requested a voice-transmit-only link with Talia. Anonymity in her line of work was just one of the minimal requirements. As she expected, the link was made quickly. The comms plate cleared and revealed Talia's quizzical half smile.
"Dama, I've got it all! I am ready to transmit."
Talia frowned and her smile faded. Her oval yellow eyes clouded with a strange, almost mocking regret. "That will no longer be necessary ... Kadreen," she said softly.
A jolt of panic ran through Kadreen's body. She stared at Talia's image in confusion and felt the blood drain from her face. Cold dread froze her.
"How ... how did you find out?" she managed to choke out.
Talia winced. "I am sorry, my dear. I really am."
The plate turned dull gray, leaving Kadreen shaken. It had all been a plot - to catch her!
That had been less than an hour ago.
The night was crisp and the city lights behind her did not give her any comfort. Kadreen gave a rueful smile. Such was the price for playing the Family intrigues.
Another beam brushed past the combie and neatly sliced through the starboard impeller. The air suddenly smelled of ozone. Blue sparks arced at her from the curved console and the bubble frame, their touch sharp and burning. She yelped with pain and coughed from the acrid fumes that filled the cabin. Some of the nav control pads flashed brown in warning of imminent failure. The power management system flickered between green and orange-white of total shutdown. The combie flipped over on its belly and nosed down.
Kadreen knew that she had seconds at most. She glanced around, but there was no sign of her pursuer. Fighting g-forces, she hurriedly punched in the transmission code, her breath a strangled hiss of frustration. The combie shuddered beneath her and began to tumble in its dive. The comms screen acknowledged her code and waited for the command to transmit. Grimly, she jabbed the commit pad.
She felt a silent explosion and the air around her flared with light. She did not even have time to scream as the combie disintegrated around her. It all happened so slowly, like watching a scene in a Wall. Her last thought was of her message. Had it gone through? For a split second she had an image of her body being torn apart.
Glowing wreckage fell silently on the dark countryside below.