Margot Bogart

A lady, a suit and a whole lot of machine gun power
She moved across the muddy, frost-encrusted earth, straining against the stiffness in her leg and the metal and gauze of the splint that held it in place.  She couldn’t bend her knee without tasting pain, hot and brassy on the back of her tongue, squeezing back tears each time her foot came down and jostled the injury.
Losing Harlot was the worst of it.  The old chrome horse had been her ride since before she was readily able to remember, now little more than a lump of molten steel and plastic smoldering in a field some four miles east. Everything she owned in the world was tied down or saddlebagged to her treasured bike, and with the exception of a few salvageable essentials which were now strapped to her person—the Uzi her uncle brought her as a gift from one of his MidEast biztrips, a couple of concussion grenades, c4 and a detonator, a belt for tools and one for ammo, her bayonet, a pouch full of money, traveler’s cheques, and credit cards (all stolen)—she’d lost it all.
She held up the rearview mirror she’d retrieved about twenty skips behind the wreckage and scoped herself out.  Pretty haggard, she had to cop, but the cuts and bruises appeared to be more or less superficial; save for the parallel scars that lined her hollow Dietrich cheeks, there was no permanent damage to her smooth, well-structured face.  Thank God for reconstructive surgery, she thought, angling the mirror to admire the twin disfigurations that ran up from the corners of her sneering mouth, giving her face a somewhat skull-like appearance, an eternally grinning rictus promising pleasure unto death.  The rest of her body ached from the savage spill to a degree that would have immobilized a lesser being, but her self-diagnosis  turned up no evidence of internal injury or tissue hemorrhage.  The knee, bum since a schoolyard basketball game when she was 15, was now swollen to epic proportions.
The wind whipped her fire-red mane, held it aloft, whistling cleanly around the fresh-shaven sides of her pale scalp.  Most folks tended to disbelieve her when she told them that red was her natural color.  Except for her lovers.
She spat a glut of blood and phlegm into the mud, lit another menthol, and continued dragging her battered carcass  across the flat wet plain, doing her damnedest to ignore the chill wind that bit through torn leather to find her stinging flesh.

She walks along a darkened roadway, staggering her step, one foot in the street, one on the curb, trying with all the worldly effort she can summon from her terribly small, frail self to appear casual and unafraid.
            I am a child, she thinks, and I am alone.
            It is far to her home, and most of the houses along this street are dark, silent. She notices that the houses where the blue light of the The Box flickers hauntingly seem more desperate and empty somehow than those that lie in complete darkness. She hates television, always has. Even as a very small child, when most her age would stare slack-jawed at the screen they’d been propped in front of, utterly absorbed by the random and meaningless images that flash so brightly, so colorfully, Margot found The Box to be boring, an annoyance, a waste of her precious time (precious, mind, not valuable; children can only have precious time, at least when they’re not off on incessant crying jags, and Margot is not much of one for tears; they too, are a waste of her time).
            There is a car behind her, very close, and she curses herself for not noticing it sooner. She plays a game with the cars usually, only it is not really a game. She plays Invisible Girl. She becomes very silent, breathing all but ceases, as soon as she spies the headlights, and she moves sideways with the grace of a dancer, going deeper into the shadows, simply becoming a part of her surroundings, and the sounds of nature become louder for her in big beautiful stereophonic sound and she can feel the night wind blow right through her, touch her soul, play with it, let her know that it’s there, and the fear disappears, is replaced by a feeling of elation that has little and much to do with being a child.
            Harmony.
            This word comes to her mind at such times. It is a nice word, a very beautiful word, the loveliest word she knows, and at those moments when she stands frozen, vanished not from Earth but into it, she knows what that word means.
            But this car has tricked her; it’s won the game before the the game has even started. This car is too quiet, she thinks; it just creeped right up on me. It caught me.
            She can almost smell the evil that clings to the car that is moving so slowly, so silently behind her, but she doesn’t even think of running. That would be giving in to her emotions, collapsing in on herself, letting the fear overtake her. And she can’t do that to herself, can’t desert herself. Who will she turn to then?
            “Hey,” rings out loud and clear like a pistol shot, and she is barely able to keep herself from jumping at the sound. “Hey, little girl. What are you doing out this late? Shouldn’t you be home in bed, hon?”
            The man in the car who is speaking—one of at least three passengers, she’s pretty sure, though she has not yet even glanced at the car—has a way of emphasizing in bed that makes her feel sick. She does not know why.
            “Do your parents know you’re out here? Are you lost? You maybe oughta get in the car, huh, sweetheart?”
            “No, thanks. I live just up around this curve. I’m almost there.”
            “Well, let us drive ya. I mean, we’re headed that way, right?”
            “S’okay, I like to walk.”
            “C’mon, kid. Just get in the car, let a nice guy do you a favor. Whattaya say?”
            Again his words sound wicked, like threats, like dark promises, promises to make her dreams come true. The bad ones.
            “Look, thanks a lot for the offering and everything, okay? But I really don’t want a ride. I don’t want one, and I don’t need one.”
            “Little girl…” He almost sings it, crooking his finger at her and wagging it. “Come here.”
            And finally she looks, looks right into the driver’s eyes, and they are flat and black and full of hate.
            “Leave me alone! I just want to walk home!”
            “Okay, fine, don’t take the fuckin’ ride! Bitch!”
            The tires squeal and the car rockets forward, and she welcomes the momentary sense of relief. It evaporates quickly when the car pulls over at the curb about twenty yards ahead. She continues to walk, but her pace slows to a crawl. A door opens and one of the men gets out of the vehicle. He stands there, waiting for her to come and catch the ride of her life.
            Breathlessly, hot tears of anger and fear stinging her eyes, she crosses the road and diligently continues her trek towards home. As she nears the car, the man moves to the middle of the street, determined to have her. The odor gets worse, and she begins to cry.
            “Little girl,” he says, the same sing-song cadence as before, coming right up to her and getting ahold of her coat sleeve. “We can’t just let you wander around by yourself like this. Something bad might happen to you. Why are you crying?”
            He reaches out as if to touch her wet, red cheek and she jerks her face away.
            “What the fuck’s the matter with you? We’re giving you a goddamn ride. You should be grateful. You should appreciate that.”
            “Fuck you!” She tries to run, but the man gets ahold of her and has his hands on her and she can feel all the other children he’s done this to in those awful hands, squirming right along with her. She wishes for every car she’s ever hid from to come screaming down the road right now, to run right over these evil fuckers, to kill them.
            He closes one hand over her face, the other is between her legs and he is lifting her up that way. She has one arm free. The knife in her pocket is not her own. It belongs to a boy named Gordon who loaned it to her just for this walk. Gordon is the reason she’s making her way home so late at night. She and Gordon had a date in a tree. Gordon and his friends have a very cool treehouse with a portable CD player and everything. Gordon, who is older—almost 12—has been teaching her to dance. She and Gordon spent nearly three hours just slow dancing to some soft music way up in the trees. David Bowie. Fleetwood Mac. Queen. Just like the big kids. It was warm and beautiful. But now even these thoughts seem unpleasant, evil. Wrong.
            She is able to get the knife in her pocket open with one hand before he has her halfway to the waiting car. She knows she must not let him get her into the car, because in the car there are more of them, and they will take her knife away, and death will be certain. Death and worse.
            The knife comes out of her pocket, arcs up, then down, and the entire three-inch blade plunges into the jeans-flesh-muscle of his thigh. His scream is hideous. She loves the sound of it. He grabs for his thigh in pain and she is able to squirm free. She fall to her knees but is up in no time and running, running blindly, just putting distance between herself and that car whose door lies open to reveal the gaping maw of an evil that wants to swallow her up, then regurgitate her spent, empty shell. All she needs is the distance, then she can disappear.
            They look for her a long time, their silent, eviel machine creeping slowly up and down the street. She can hear the agonized voice of the one she stabbed, howling in pain, cursing her. The voice intrudes on her Harmony and so she blocks it out.
            Eventually they give up and move on, taking their foul smell and the rest of her fear with them. She sneaks home stealthily, ascends to the roof of her house with the ease that comes with much practice. She strips clean and stands before the bathroom mirror, watching her shaking—almost convulsing—body curiously, trying to make herself stop. She won’t sleep this night.
            The next morning her father finds her in front of The Box staring at a test pattern, patiently waiting for something to happen on the screen.
            She never says a word about it to her parents, knowing that they would not be proud, that they would only scold her for being out so late, blame her for what happened, punish her for it all, especially the knife that saved her life.
            And punishment is a waste of her time.

Past dusk and coming on full dark when she spotted the first vehicle to come along since she reached the Flyway.  Caught the high-beams slicing through the night-smog roughly a kilometer off; tempted by her own exhaustion to take up position on the shoulder, stick her thumb into the wind, and wait.  Caution kicked in and she slipped back a few meters, crouched low and scoped the approach.  Someone was bound to be searching for the truckload of missing Guardsmen, if their mangled, smoldering corpses weren’t already discovered, in which case they’d be hunting for her.
She laid out flat on the cold, mushy terrain, scarcely drawing breath as the headlights drew nearer.  Too low to the ground for a truck, damn big for a car.  Whatever, its silhouette was blacker than the starless sky, blacker than her own thoughts, and it stretched on quite a ways behind those headlights.  The first discernible detail she made out was the license plate, illumined as it was by its small bulb.
It read SLAB3.
Trip-wired synapses chain-reacted in her brain, her thoughts caught in mental crossfire. The vehicle rolled forward in motorized whisper, some kind of Stealthmobile, grill emblazoned with a matte-metallic M, two feet high an nearly as wide, and the hood ornament, revealed at a glance as the car made its pass, was a rectangular chunk of black rock, all-too-familiar logo: MONOLITH.
The limousine slid past, not just any MONOlimo, but a massive armored stretch conveying the 3rd most important member of the Cygnet Consortium, the cartel’s ultraelite Board of Director’s, and one of the six people Margot hated most in the world.
Night-chill settled over her like a bedsheet at the city morgue. She kept moving. Travelled ten more miles on adrenaline and numb hate, hate that swelled up strong and bitter as ever the moment she spied the MONOlimo.  Why they’d send a boardhead to the Belt, she couldn’t figure; neither here nor there.  Catching up to it was the imperative, stopping it the goal, destroying it her destiny.
Pain slowed her progress to a steady crawl; dragging ass by force of will.  Without something potent to deaden the agony of her twisted, throbbing knee, collapse was imminent.  She needed a painkiller.
Or a ride.
Or something.

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