1From the Ashes They are not here. They are supposed to be there.

Did you get coordinates right? Positive. Is correct location but no one here. Signs of struggle, one dead body. Been dead for a while, few hours at least. No sign of target. Servants probably got to him first. What about other one? What other one? "Hurry up, fool. They're going to trace this." "No, they won't." Two adults, one boy. You said one was dead there, where's other? Don't know. Probably taken. For leverage. Ok. Come back to HQ for now. I will check with CP. Then she was gone. He rubbed a callused hand over his shaved head and over the short stubble that covered it. He would have to shave again in a few days before too much of the telltale red began to show. "You should stop interrupting me while I'm sending updates to Headquarters." "I will when you can update without the unnecessary chatter." "Would you like to do it instead? Huh?" he glared at his companion, who remained silent. "Didn't think so." After all these years the man still wouldn't touch one of those 'infernal contraptions'. Even when they relied on them for communication. His companion pulled a cord out of the phone jack. He looked agitated, but then he always looked agitated while in the field. "You left it connected." "I was going to disconnect it!" muttered Irving. He slammed the portable computer shut and shoved it into a rucksack. The other man handed the cord to him.


"You took far too long," he said, sneering. "You know Bronstein has the Servants scanning the lines." "I took thirty seconds. They probably didn't even know I was there." "If they find us while we're in contact, they will be able to pinpoint -" "The location of Headquarters, yes, yes, I know. You tell me this every ... single ... time." Irving sighed wearily, shouldering the rucksack. "I don't recall you being this much of a nag back in school." "I'm older now. It comes with the territory," the other man said dryly. "What did she say?" "We're going back to Headquarters for now. She's going to see CP." The older man grunted. "What?" asked Irving. "Are you still pissed off about losing your job to CP?" "Shut up, Radovich. Detention." Was that an attempt at humor? He had changed so much, and yet so little. They didn't get along - they never had - but strangely, they worked well together. Irving glanced over the man he was partnered with. He took in the dark eyes and the black hair - now shot through with white - that was tied up in a messy ponytail. And then, of course, there was the nose, the distinctive hooked nose that you simply couldn't miss. Ten years ago, he would have called anyone mad who told him he'd trust Delani with his life. But then again, the world had gone mad. "What are you standing there gawking at?" Delani snapped. "This is no time for navelgazing." "I wasn't navel-gazing." "I didn't believe that when you were my student and I still don't. Let's go." ***** She padded soundlessly through the alley, sticking to the wall and slinking behind dustbins whenever she could. She tried to keep to the shadows as much as possible. Making the journey


by night was much easier, though still perilous. She paused by the corner of a building. This part was the worst. She had to walk in the open. She knew the Servants would be out and about, lurking in the shadows, patrolling the district. She took a deep breath, sucking in air between her small pointed teeth, and shot across the road and down the street past the building that used to be a big department store. She darted behind an old mailbox. No one saw her. A left here, now a right ... she knew the path by heart. She no longer needed to look up. She could tell where she was by the chinks in the pavement, and by the cracks in the foundations of the building. Ah, the dumpster. She climbed on quickly, walked to the other end and leapt, her hands barely grasping the ladder that led to the second-floor. Grunting, she pulled herself up and climbed onto the balcony, tapping at the window quietly. It opened almost immediately and large strong hands emerged, beckoning her inside. She slipped into the room stealthy. "I've been expecting you," the man whispered, as they tiptoed their way across the floorboards. They were going down the stairs. On the landing between one flight and the other, he paused, standing in front of a huge mirror that covered the entire wall. The man gently touched the visible crack in the center and it shimmered, rippling as through it was made of water, before it opened ajar. Calmly, they walked through, and the man tapped the mirror back into place. "Okay," he said. "You stay here. I'll get Emilio." He walked back through the mirror, which looked like a plain sheet of transparent glass from this side, and went back up the stairs. She stretched her limbs, feeling the strain in her muscles, and then sat down on one of the suede armchairs placed around the table in the centre of the tiny room. She had never been able to tell where exactly in the house the room was. It should have stuck out the side of the building, but it didn't. It hardly mattered anyway, as long as it was there and no one else knew about it.


The room was cluttered with all kinds of bizarre equipment. Pens were strewn over bits and scraps of paper and notepads. She recognized the miniscule scribbles of her companions. A plaque hung on the wall over the pens. An old cabinet stood in the corner, scrolls and documents spilling from it. She had no idea how they kept things in Resistance, but Emilio and Remy always seemed to know where every single thing was. There was a large crystal bowl full of sweets on the table. She eyed it suspiciously. Emilio and Remy came hurrying down the stairs and through the mirror. "Sorry, 'bout that, Anya. I couldn't get him up," said the redhead she assumed was Remy. "It's okay." Anya stood up and gave Emilio a warm hug, and then Remy. Sitting down again, she glanced at the sweets. "Are these safe?" "Oh, yes. Just normal sweets, those," replied Emilio. "Well, at least the yellow ones are." Remy sniggered. Anya sighed, waving a hand to signal the end of the conversation, and also because the physical movement helped her to clear her head of awful, distracting thoughts. "Okay, enough small talk. I'm sure you know why I'm here." "Yeah, you didn't find Max Chase," said Remy. "But that's all right, because we know why. The Servants got to him first." "Oh, really?" said Anya snidely. "I had no idea." Both Emilio and Remy ignored Anya's sarcastic comment. Emilio walked over to the overflowing wooden cabinet and rummaged around in a drawer for a bit before coming up with a scroll. "This is what one of our beetles sent to us." "Where was this beetle placed?" "In Wacko McCluskey’s office." "His name is Jack," corrected Anya.


"Not to us, it isn't. It hasn't been since he betrayed everyone for a fat paycheck and Bronstein's favor." "But we owe him. If it wasn't for him, you two wouldn't have got this job and our operation wouldn't have got off the ground." "Eh," said Emilio. "Our products were probably good enough to catch Bronstein’s eye without help from Wacko." He saw Anya's face grow menacing. "Uh, I mean Jack." They were right about their products. Emilio and Remy were the most talented craftsmen she had ever known. After the war, after things went bad, they had given up their successful shop to join what was left of the Resistance. When they showed Anya their first beetle - obviously modeled after something they had read about in the spy novels Irving owned - she suggested they bring it to Bronstein instead. It took a while to convince them that it was a good idea, but in the end they agreed. After a few months of intense training, they were ready to offer the beetle and their services to Bronstein. Jack, of course, was absolutely delighted that his brothers had seen the error of the ways and wanted to join the side that had won. He was highly cooperative and brought them to Lucas Sinvey. The twins were given one chance to prove to Bronstein that their beetle could be of use to him, which they did, revealing in a spectacular fashion that Santino Delani was a spy, and had been for over a decade. The twins were retained for their services, and their job was to design and make surveillance equipment for Bronstein and his supporters, known as Servants. Bronstein, while powerful, was also quite paranoid, and wanted to keep an eye on everyone and their mother. Unfortunately for Bronstein, he had no idea that the twin's inventions were based on technology and ideas in books. He would have imploded if he knew that the twins added a specific modification to every piece of equipment they gave to the Servants, a modification that made sure everything that particular piece of equipment recorded would be sent back to the twins.


Anya glanced over at the pens that were sprawled over thick stacks of parchment. Bronstein could keep an eye on his followers, and now, so could the Resistance. Emilio and Remy had been spies for over seven years. Few of the Resistance's members knew that they were spies, and those that did - Anya, Irving, Delani, Virginia, among others were sworn to secrecy. All of the ones who had joined their ranks later thought they were wholehearted supporters of Bronstein. Furthermore, few knew that the spy who provided the Resistance with intelligence was actually two people. Anya always talked as though they were one, and referred to them as 'CP': Castor and Pollux - the twins of Greek mythology. Of course, to ensure they always had Bronstein's trust, Emilio and Remy had to make sure their equipment was central to the apprehension of several well-known rebels. The twins delivered and they were responsible for the well-publicized captures of many members of the Resistance. Bronstein thought he was crushing the resistance. He could not have been more wrong. "So," said Remy, unrolling the scroll and laying it on the table so Anya could see, "this is what the beetle recorded in Jack's office. As you know, he's in charge of everything going on in the Enclaves. A day ago, he heard a report of someone living in Sector Nine of the East London Enclave showing signs of spontaneous power. I informed you, and you sent someone to pick this person up -" "Yeah, I sent Irving and Delani this evening. I don't like them going out in the day." "Ah, I see ..." Emilio nodded. "Well, this report was verified to begin with -" "Yeah," interrupted Remy, "the boy blew something up while some Servants were watching. Or something like that." "- so Jack sent people immediately and didn't bother to check it like he usually does. Anyway, looks like Irving and Delani missed the Servants by a few hours. That's a good thing though. We don't want them running into a group of Bronstein's lackeys. Someone might recognize them."


"What happened to the boy?" "Well," continued Remy, "at six p.m. today, Jack received word that the Servants running the East London Enclave had the boy, Max Chase, and his mother in custody. The father died while defending them." "Yes, Irving told me there was a dead person at the scene." Anya sighed. "Anyway, the kid and his mother are being held in the holding pen of the Administration Building in the same Enclave, under the watchful eye of Servants. O’Neill is in charge of that building." "What? They're still in that Enclave? Jack didn't have them sent back to the Training Facility?" Anya smacked herself in the forehead. If she had known this she could've sent Irving and Delani straight to the holding pen. "Yeah, you know how it is with the government." "Oh, god," said Anya, rubbing her temples. "I should've told Delani and Irving to just go get them instead of going back to Headquarters. When are they going to be moved?" "Well, it was six when Jack got the news; everyone had left work and hit the pubs by then. I expect he'll get authorization for the two first thing tomorrow morning." "Why are they bothering with the mother? Why not just kill her?" asked Anya. Remy ran a finger down the scroll. "Oh, says here that after the boy's father was killed, the boy said he would comply with all of their wishes as long as they didn't harm his mother." Remy shrugged. "I expect they will kill her at some point, but I'm sure O’Neill is keeping her alive for now to make her job easier. She's probably going to just deliver both to Jack and let him deal with it. She's ugly, but not stupid." "Okay," said Anya, drumming her fingernails on the table restlessly. "Okay, okay ... ah, what time is it now?" "I should think it's close to two in the morning?" said Remy. "Yeah," agreed Emilio.


"Right ... I don't want Delani and Irving moving in the daytime and I think they should be able to make it to the Enclave and back by sunrise if I send them now. But I need to get back." "You can just talk to them by computer," said Remy, winking at Emilio. "We can't use a computer here. It interferes with electronic functions!" "Ah, yes, you think it would, but we shielded the main circuit in the computer with a field. We've been working on it and we think we've got it almost perfect. There's still some interference now and then, but it seems to work, and I think you'll like the other thing we've done with our computer. You can connect from anywhere now." Anya raised an eyebrow as Emilio as he smugly laid the small computer in front of her. A wisp of pulsating light emerged from the computer and headed straight for the wall, leaving behind a ghostly trail of blue hanging in the air. "What's it doing?" whispered Anya. "It's searching for the nearest available, active phone line. It'll ride along with it as a passenger. Sort of. It's like a parasite. We think it's better than the cords because it’s harder to trace this way. It's still in the testing phase though," said Remy. "We think that if they actually manage a trace it it'll probably only lead them to the unlucky sod who owns the phone connected to the line." Emilio shrugged indifferently. "This would be somewhat malicious, except for the fact that most of the people who own the phones are rich businessmen who provide Bronstein with money and services in return for protection and limited freedom. So, we don't really feel that sorry for them." "Yeah, once we get it perfected we can talk to Al and Gabe about modifying everyone's computer with something like this." "Well done, guys," said Anya, much impressed. She couldn't wait to tell Algernon and Gabriel, the members of the Resistance who worked on scavenged technology discarded by the enemies in power.


"Okay, Anya, looks like you're in," said Emilio, pointing to the screen with a blinking cursor under the words 'Connected to HQ'. "Do you have someone watching the computers over there?" "Someone's on duty all the time, you know that." HQ, this is AB, who is there? typed Anya. VR. "It's Virginia." "Hi, Virginia!" said Emilio and Remy in unison. VR, CP says hi. Need to talk to IR or SD. Hi, CP. AB: SD has not got over fear of technology. Will get IR. Anya tapped her foot impatiently. She didn't like waiting while connected. Bronstein's Servants kept close watch on the phone lines to make sure those oppressed weren't plotting against their rulers. She had been traced before and things never ended pleasantly. "Delani still won't touch a computer, huh?" asked Emilio (or Remy) from behind her. "We've got him to touch one on a few occasions. He still avoids them for the most part." This is IR. Target and parent are still in E. London Enclave - Admin Building holding pen. Guarded by Servants. O’Neill may also be there. Should not be a problem, but bring back-up. You have till sunrise. On our way. "Okay, they're on their way. I need to get to HQ in case anything comes up." "Hey, wait. Before you go," said Emilio, with a grim look on his face, "you ought to know that they raised the price on your head." "Really?" said Anya, feeling slightly flattered. "Yeah. You're now worth ten million dollars alive. And ..." "And what?"


"And five million dead." "Ah, dead or alive now, huh?" "Yeah, even Irving's not in the same league as you. He's worth only four million dead or alive." "What rubbish," said Emilio. "Our little brother's worth more than that." "Yeah, they know she's the leader though," said Remy. "She has to be worth more." "It wasn't really a job I asked for, guys." "You're good at it, Anya." "I try my best." She hugged Emilio and Remy tightly. "I'll be in touch. Take care." "You too. Be careful." He whispered. Anya looked at him, blinked, and climbed out the window. Emilio watched her as she crouched and took an impressive leap down onto the dumpster, disappearing into the shadows. Anya hurried along, running when she could. She scampered past the house with the red back-door, past the broken drainpipe and turned at the street-lamp with a rude word painted on its base. The street she had to cross was empty and devoid of life and she darted across as quickly as she could. She was halfway there. She had just turned into the alley leading away from Knightsbridge when something went wrong. Her legs weren't working right. Her centre of balance had shifted. Anya lurched and fell on one knee. She winced as she broke her fall and her hands scraped against the rough pavement. "Well, well, Anya Bradley," said a soft voice, taunting her. "I knew it was the same person I kept seeing running up and down these streets as though it had some purpose. But who knew it'd be such a celebrity?" Anya looked up and saw the glint of eyes in the shadow. She knew that voice. It was familiar. She remembered it being higher, more girlish ... less broken. Anya leapt to her feet. She knew who it was now, she had placed the voice.

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"Robin Robertson," she said. "I wondered what happened to you." Robin Robertson emerged from the shadows. Anya looked her up and down. She was a textbook Servant. Grey robe, red lining, her hair drawn up and away from her face to reveal the brand on her neck. "I see you're doing Bronstein's dirty work. Things his precious Servants won't do." "I am one of his enforcers," said Robin proudly. "I'm sure you tell yourself that so you can sleep at night. I bet he wouldn't even spit on you," Anya laughed scornfully. "Bronstein would kill anyone who wasn't pure without a second thought, except then he'd have no one to rule over. You're only here because of Bronstein's huge ego." Robin's hand began to shake. Her knuckles were white. Anya could see the anger in her eyes."They killed my family," she hissed. "I did what I could to survive." "And going against what you've always believed has brought them back to life?" Anya said mockingly. "They killed my family too. And my friends. But I won't let them die a second death by serving their murderers." "Shut up." "You know I'm right, don't you? Don't you remember what we stood for?" Anya accused. "You, Robin Robertson, should have died before you served Bronstein. I know I would have." "Shut up!" shrieked Robin. "Bronstein will reward me greatly for your capture." Anya dove to the ground just as Robin lunged for her. She was getting serious now."Don't do this, Robin," she said, getting up. She didn't want to hurt Robin. If she could just turn Robin to their side ... Anya was certain she would be a great asset to them. Once Anya retaliated, she would have no chance of winning her over. She had to keep talking. "Don't do this? Are you afraid? Is the great Anya Bradley afraid of me?" Robin laughed. "I am not afraid. But I am warning you. You don't want to fight me. Join with me, stand with us against Bronstein. Avenge your family."

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"Don't speak to me about my family!" "Robin, this is your chance! No more torture at the hands of the power-mad Servants. None of that. You won't have to endure their questioning, or their mocking. You won't be beneath them anymore. You'll be free!" "Free? I will never be free from the memories ..." Robin sighed bitterly, her hand trembling. "I would like to go with you, but ... how could you trust me?" "I trust you, Robin. I know the Robin I knew as a child is still there. And all of us live with the memories. We can help you." Anya walked forward, her hand outstretched. She knew she could get through to her. She had – Smack! Robin punched her full on the mouth. Pain coursed through Anya and she fell to the ground. "Robin!" she gasped. "You're too trusting," Robin said, admiring her handiwork. "And you always did talk too much, even though no one was listening." Anya gritted her teeth, and clenched her fists, ignoring the pain that was beginning to subside slightly. She dragged herself to her feet and dove behind a group of three old dustbins as a dull red bolt narrowly missed her. She squatted behind the flimsy aluminum cans, panting heavily, knowing she was cornered. "What? Anya Bradley, hiding in rubbish?" Anya peeked through the space between the remaining two bins; Robin was standing a few feet away. The alley was long and narrow and if she tried to run for it, Robin would tackle her before she took three steps. If she stayed here, she was a sitting duck. There was only one thing she could do. Anya braced her foot against the floor and put her hands flat on one of the dustbins. Then with a piercing screech, she lunged in Robin's direction, staying low, pushing the metal can before her as a shield. The bin was lighter than Anya expected and she was able to carry it further and faster than she thought she would. She heard a

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startled squeak, and felt a rude, bone-crunching impact. The sound of crashing metal was thunderous, but it had the effect Anya was hoping for. Unexpected attack by garbage disposal equipment had left Robin startled and sitting on her bum. It was enough. Instead of tackling Anya - who was right in front of her - the disoriented Robin's first instinct was to try to get up. This was a mistake. As Robin scrambled to her feet, Anya reached for the smooth leather-wrapped hilt sticking out of her boot, and as her fingers tightened around the handle, she knew she had won. With a loud grunt, Anya reached out and stabbed the part of Robin that was most easily accessible to her: the foot. The knife slid through her leather shoe easily, and Robin screamed as it impaled her flesh. She rose swiftly to her feet. Robin was busy shrieking, clutching at her ankle. "You ... you bitch!" she cried.

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