The year is 2032. This is the City, centre of world politics.
Scarecrow was in his small apartment, off-duty, waiting for his next assignment. Not that he was expecting one; he knew when he was on suspension, even if they hadn’t explicitly said so.
The apartment was sparsely furnished. The small TV was never turned on; the several bookshelves contained nothing but travel guides. On a single desk in the corner four laptops were set up, all currently blank. To one side was a set of weights, an exercise mat and a heavy duty punch-bag suspended from the ceiling. He didn’t do entertainment. He was always preparing, always prepared. In his head, he was never off-duty.
The root and cause of his current situation was being held in the maximum security prison on the outskirts of the City. He pulled the feed from the cell’s camera into his visual overlay. It popped up to the right of his vision, a picture-in-picture frame. Nothing had changed. He double-checked the timestamp at the bottom right of the image. It was definitely real-time, he was watching live, though it may have well have been yesterday or the day before.
The General just sat there in his prison blues, smiling beatifically, as if he were some angelic choirboy, not a mass-murdering, genocidal psychopath. After years of operations and lost agents they finally had him, but he had one last trick to play: he had no working biological memory, and when they brought their prize in, his implant was missing.
Everyone had implants but for most people it was a more symbiotic relationship. For all intents and purposes, that memory implant was the General. All they had was this blissful idiot.
Scarecrow raked a hand through his messy, straw-blonde hair. He was frustrated. The operation had gone wrong, somewhere. And he had been part of the operation, so until they knew what had gone wrong, he was pulled, stood down. They would be watching him, but it didn’t matter, he didn’t know what to do.
He stepped up to the punch bag and began laying into it. He knew his reputation, the spy with no brain, and now the General had him trumped on that score too. He wasn’t supposed to be the one doing the thinking, that was Dorothy’s job. And now Dorothy was AWOL, another casualty of the operation.
He watched the General’s smiling face and thumped the bag till sweat poured from him and sand scattered the carpet at his feet.
Leon scratched at his scalp; his hair was still in its trademark dreadlocks but they were thinner and only vestigial traces of the old chestnut brown lined the ashen grey.
He hadn’t returned to the Tree House, his base of operations; he might have been drawn out specifically to reveal its location. Besides, this thing would be easier to see through from within the City.
He had the Tin Man’s intel strewn across his retinal display; maps, rumours, possible sightings. He flicked things around with hand gestures, trying to match pieces of the puzzle together.
Dorothy’s projected entry into the City was most reliable piece of information. After the operation that brought in the General, she had been rushed back with severe cranial trauma. But before they arrived at St Mary’s hospital, if reports were accurate, she had broken free, run away. It made no sense.
Everything else was conjecture, ghosts and guesswork. He began chopping the data up and feeding it to his operatives.
“Where are you, girl. What game are you lost in?”
****She jerked awake, eyes wide, mouth opening and closing, gasping. Most people would have been screaming after a dream like that but years of honed instinct kept her quiet. What instinct? She couldn’t remember. All she could remember were the bodies, piles of corpses higher than any man, and laughter, a man’s laughter that seemed to be her own.