A/N: For the last week, I’ve been feeling so uninspired to edit the book I’ve been working on (I’m calling it Draft 1.5 because calling it Draft 2 just seems like a joke at the moment lol) so I thought I’d post an irrelevant scene I’ve written instead of actually editing. Procrastination at its best. This scene has drastically changed since I posted it, and so has the entire book (the setting is different, the time-period it exists in has changed) and I think that’s the beauty of editing–you take your own book in new, unexpected, and exciting directions. So, we’ll see what Draft 2 brings when I get to that. Oh, and I also have some sort of title I think I like for it!
Irrelevant scene I wrote when I struggled with editing
The beginning of summer was a blessing for someone like Tori. The oak tree’s foliage was thick and dense enough to hide at least five of her. Some long dead landscaper must have decided to bring some nature back to the city after the War had reduced most of it to piles of rubble almost a century ago. Tori scoffed at the thought of one solitary oak tree in the centre of a city square serving any purpose. At least it was providing her with cover whilst she watched Central Station from her perch.
A criminal like Tori needed quick getaways and safe hideouts and with the crowds thinning as the end-of-work rush hour came to an end, she’d have to be careful not to be seen. For a lesser criminal it might have been a challenge.
“Less than five minutes.”Tori adjusted her glasses as the voice of her always-omnipotent colleague, Ghost, crackled to life in the comms unit implanted inside her ear. She muttered a confirmation to Ghost even though the train times whizzed across the holographic screen of her glasses. She’d been monitoring them closely for any sudden changes since the morning.
She gave the station entrance and the square below a quick once-over through the branches while she readied herself to drop to the ground. The glasses’ interface streamed bits and pieces of information across her vision—mostly escape routes and records of the faces it scanned through its in-built facial recognition system. Nothing flagged up as suspicious from any of the databases Ghost kept updated so Tori proceeded to adeptly swing onto lower branches until she made the jump to the cobblestoned ground beneath the shade of the tree.
Something caught her eye from across the street that gave her pause—a group of men in immaculately pressed suits were jogging straight for the station’s entrance. Tori groaned low in her throat, recognising the men as Peter’s cronies, as she slipped behind the tree on silent feet and used the thick trunk to hide herself from view.
“You seeing this, Ghost?” she grumbled into her mic implant.
“I’m offended for you,” the hacker replied.
Peter’s crew were Tori’s main competition (as well as a complete pain in the neck). They liked to work in numbers and had a flare for the dramatic—Peter took pride in the crimes he played a part in committing. Tori and Ghost liked to work alone in a far more lowkey capacity.
Ghost hadn’t plucked Tori from the streets to show off her own skills. They provided a service, they got the work done, they got paid. Working in codenames kept them anonymous and safe and Ghost had given Tori hers—Hermes—and had made sure she’d earned it. Tori was swift and stealthy, quick and clever just like the god of messengers, thieves, and trickery.
From hacking into various chatrooms and tapping into private phone calls, Ghost had confirmed that the name ‘Hermes’ had provided Tori with the best cover of all—her rivals and potential employers believed her to be male.
Not pleased with the appearance of Peter’s crew, she adjusted the mask, which covered her nose and mouth only, over her face and stalked across the street, the help and protection of Ghost’s eyes in every camera in the area watching her back.
Tori pulled her black cap lower over her face as she descended the stairs into the station, pulling her phone from her pocket and swiping through the fake social media accounts Ghost had created for her. Her pace slowed as she scrolled—just another young girl more interested in her phone than looking to see where she was walking. Or so it appeared.
From below the brim of her cap, Tori clocked Peter’s crew, five in total, spread out along Platform Three trying their best to look inconspicuous. One of them kept nervously touching his ear where his own comms unit was no doubt nestled.
At least send the competent ones, Peter. Make my job a little more interesting, Tori thought.
“Two minutes and three seconds left,” Ghost counted down. “The package is in the third carriage.”
Tori meandered over to the newsstand and scrolled through the entertainment section on one of the tablets on display whilst continuing to keep an eye on the five well-dressed amateurs.
Peter’s crew became antsy as an announcement rolled out across the station that the train was now approaching Platform Three. She noticed, with concealed amusement, that they had stationed themselves at each of the five safety doors along the platform. They don’t know which carriage the package is in, she thought, feeling triumphant.
Sauntering closer to the platform’s edge, Tori stationed herself at the third safety door and angled her body just so—she needed to be on the train before Peter’s men.
The train slid smoothly to a halt. As soon as both the safety and internal train doors opened, Tori barged her way on, not waiting for any passengers to alight first. No way in hell was she going to let her money line someone else’s pocket—she had to get to the package first, undetected.
The walk-by guy was immediately recognisable to Tori, even without Ghost’s confirmation in her ear. Sweat beaded across his brow and he kept patting his right pocket then running his no doubt sweaty palms along the lapels of his suit jacket.
As per his instructions, he made his way, casually, off the train with the other passengers, waiting to be intercepted by the hired courier. Tori skirted round him, already looking for an empty seat, and swiped the package—a small USB flash drive—from his right pocket as she passed.
She shoved both her hands along with the flash drive into her own pockets and slipped into an unoccupied seat. After a few seconds passed, she reached into the inside pocket of her leather jacket, pulling out a compact mirror. Pretending to check and fix her makeup, she angled the mirror to get a better look as the man disembarked from the train completely unaware the infamous Hermes had pickpocketed him.
“How’s he looking, Ghost? Got eyes on him?” Tori whispered down the comms unit.
“Making his way to the exit now—no tail.”
Tori relaxed slightly, but kept her mirror raised as one of Peter’s men came rushing up the carriage, a look of confused frustration on his face.
Tori clicked the compact shut, put her feet up on the chair in front of her, and started scrolling through her fake social media profiles once more. Her night was far from over, but she slouched in her seat as the train moved off—just another commuter tired after a day’s work.
Peter’s crew were now gathering in her carriage, sitting themselves in the booth behind hers, arguing in hushed tones.
“But there’s no way Hermes would have made it off the train in that amount of time!” one of them exclaimed. “I still say he’s definitely an Other.”
“He’s Hermes,” another offered, “he probably intercepted the package in the station—wider space and more people.” He lowered his voice so Tori had to strain to hear. “And shut up about the Others, will you? There are ears everywhere.”
It was an effort of will to keep from laughing. Only another Other would panic about speaking of them. Hidden in plain sight, my friend.
Ghost’s voice crackled to life. “Interesting they know you were hired, don’t you think?”
“I assume you’re already looking into it?”
“Hacking into Peter’s mainframe as we speak.”
Tori stood then stretched, making her way to the train’s doors to alight at the next stop. She had to catch a connecting train to reach the drop-off point she’d been instructed to leave the package at.
A thought occurred to her then and she clicked her mic back on. “Do you think this is a set up?”
Ghost was silent for a second before she answered. “We already decided it wasn’t when we took on this job, remember? Plus, I’ve already scouted your route ahead—all clear—and no tails are following behind that I can see.”
To be safe, Tori added an extra loop to her journey and messaged Tristan, her only accomplice (and friend) she had, to adjust his own plans slightly. She trusted Ghost with her life; she was her eyes and ears everywhere at all times. Still, it was second nature to take in her surroundings, noting anything or anyone as odd or suspicious. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Even her… gifts were quiet, her Other-ness.
So, only fifteen minutes later, Tori crossed the station, scouting the lockers lining the far wall. It didn’t take her long to locate locker 427 and deposit the flash drive inside. She locked the door and dropped the key into the base of a potted plant beside the little hole-in-the-wall doughnut shop on her way outside.
The fresh night air washed across her face as she lowered her mask. Another job successfully completed. Rolling her neck to release some tension, Tori was already making plans to stop on her way home at the street vendor, who sold a selection of spicy rice dishes, for dinner, when Ghost’s voice crackled in her ear again, shrill and urgent.
“City guards, due south. Tori, they’re doing checks.”
Instantly, she was on the move. Mask pulled back up, she strode for the nearest building and grabbed hold of its drainpipe, shimmying herself all the way up to the roof supernaturally fast. She took off along the rooftops, listening to Ghost’s directions and changing course when informed. It didn’t take her long to cross the skyline to the south-side of the city where the drab olive uniforms of the City Guard were stopping people randomly and forcing them to take their intrusive tests.
A man in his mid-forties huffed and puffed, making a great show of being put out, whilst a guard clamped a thick bracelet onto his left wrist. The LED screen flashed white a few times before glowing a bright green.
Congratulations, Tori thought, despondently. You’re not the chosen one.
Sticking to the shadows, Tori inched closer to the roof’s edge, hoping to get an even better look at the streets below. Her superior sight may have helped her see farther than a normal human but her glasses provided her with invaluable information so she flicked them on, attempting to scan every face she could.
Farther down the street’s left side, another guard had slapped a bracelet on a young woman. Visibly distressed, terror bright in her eyes, Tori knew the outcome before the bracelet’s screen shone a brilliant red. The young woman tried to tear herself away from the guard, but it was too late—everyone had seen she’d been confirmed as Other. She was slammed to the ground, cuffed at the wrists and ankles, then roughly shoved into the back of the City Guard’s hover van.
With no time to waste, Tori tried to identify as many Others as possible. Ghost’s database only stored confirmed humans (since it was smarter to remain unknown as an Other) so Tori was waiting for a face to pass by that wouldn’t flag up as human. Easier said than done when this street was teeming with people. The guards definitely liked an audience for their little evening show.
Every person on this street seemed to be human. Until the boy in the worn leather boots and faded jeans passed across her vision.
Trying to look unhurried, he weaved in and out of the crowd, dodging guards whenever they came too close to him. From above, Tori could see the route he was trying to take—across the street into a narrow alley wedged between two restaurants. She could also see he would never make it without being intercepted by any number of guards. She moved before her plan had completely formed in her mind.
This building had to be at least fifteen storeys high but Tori was unafraid as she scaled the side of it which would lead her down into a shady alley, unseen from the busy street beyond. With nothing but her own body to get her safely to the ground, Tori found that dropping from windowsill to windowsill was her best option to save her from being splattered all over the concrete. Ghost remained calm. Whatever camera she was watching Tori from must have given her a good view, for Tori was surprised that she was not screaming a stream of profanities at her right about now.
“You better hope that super strength serves you well, girl. I’ll be emptying your funds into my own account if you die, just so you know,” Ghost stated calmly.
“You handle my money anyway,” Tori retorted, trying to keep her tone light for her partner’s sake. “Who’s to say you’re not skimming a little off the top already?”
Super strength or not, Tori’s arm muscles were beginning to ache with every successive drop and her t-shirt stuck uncomfortably to her sweat-slicked back beneath her jacket.
As soon as her feet hit the concrete beneath her, she took off out into the crowd, keeping an eye on every guard within spitting distance. She knew what would happen if they slapped a bracelet on her.The boy, who looked to be about her age, hadn’t yet made it across the street. Tori did what she did best and faded, unnoticed, in and out of the shadows and between the throngs of people. Only in this city would the streets still be crammed and busy at this time of the day.
The boy had to double back as a City Guard van hovered dangerously close to where he’d been seconds before. Tori followed his every movement until she was close enough to lay a hand on his shoulder. He whirled at her touch, throwing punches, but she was a trained fighter, fast and agile. She blocked his blow, twisting his arm round his back before leading him toward the side street, away from where he’d been aiming for.
“You and I do not want to be on this street right now, understood? We’re going to quickly and quietly get ourselves away from the main streets,” she whispered in his ear, putting a light bounce in her step, imitating a girl excited to be out and about with her boyfriend. He relaxed his body slightly but remained wary, his head turning to look behind him every few steps. Tori adjusted his arm so it hung round her waist as she reached hers over his shoulder. He was quite a bit taller than her, so she had to stretch to reach but she managed to push his head round to the front and keep it there. “Just concentrate on walking forward and what’s in front of you, I’ll make sure we’re safe, yeah?”
There was a taxi rank not too far along this road and if she could get them there without the guards wandering off the main street and onto this one, then she would have succeeded with her plan. Ghost would keep an eye on what was behind them—there was no reason for her to look back.
“City Guard van just turned up the street. Hide, Hermes.”
Well, shit, Tori cursed inwardly. The City Guard could stop a taxi, no questions asked, and “test” whichever unlucky passenger was inside. If they rode the taxi across the city, there was no guarantee they’d be safe. In fact, they’d be no better than sitting ducks.
She looked around for inspiration, in need of a quick change of plan. Whether he was an Other or not, there was no way to know if this boy could scale buildings like she could, so she took that method of escape out of the equation. From a tall office building, a man in a crisp grey-checked suit exited from its glass entrance. Tori saw her chance and took it.
Dragging the boy along with her, Tori caught the door to the office building before it could shut and slipped inside. She clocked the security cameras as, one by one, they shut down. Ghost could only give them a few seconds before she’d have to turn them back on in order to avoid the notice of some beady-eyed security officer awake enough to see the feed had been tampered with.
Tori moved quickly to the emergency stairwell, ushering the boy inside before securing the door behind them and ducking under the stairs in case anyone was riding a health kick and by-passed the elevators.
“I can’t find this boy anywhere online. Be careful, Hermes.” Ghost warned.
Tori rolled her eyes at Ghost’s pointless warning. If this boy tried to make a move on her, he’d be on his back, unconscious, in seconds. She examined him quickly from where they crouched together under the stairwell. His honey-brown eyes darted back and forth under raised brows.
“What’s your name?” Tori asked. If Ghost couldn’t find his identity, then there was no harm in trying the old-fashioned way. The boy’s jaw clenched as he brushed his brown hair from his forehead.
Tori narrowed her eyes. “The silent type, eh?” When the boy just glared at her in response, she shrugged. “Suits me. Listen, in approximately fifty-five seconds those emergency doors are going to open. Go right, keep your head down, and follow my lead, okay?” The boy just blinked, remaining silent. “I’ll take that as a yes,” Tori muttered under her breath.
Ghost pinged a timer across her glasses’ screen to alert her when she would bypass the building’s security and open the emergency exit across from them. At the five-second mark, Tori held up her hand and counted down on her fingers for the boy. When her timer hit zero, and she had no more fingers to count on, Tori dashed for the door, pushing it open farther, and heading along the alley located at the back of the building. She didn’t turn to see if the boy was smart enough to follow but from the heavy footsteps coming from behind her, she knew he was hot on her heels.
“God almighty, was that boy raised by a herd of elephants? That’ll need to be trained out of him,” Ghost gasped.
Despite herself, Tori chuckled, picturing Ghost shaking her head in disapproval, as she bent over a grate in the ground. Reaching into her leather jacket, she plucked a code-cracking device from it and attached it to the grate. A series of numbers whirled past on its screen before a satisfying click sounded and she hauled the heavy iron grate open. She gestured for the boy to jump down but he backed away from her.
“No way. You first.” The first words he’d spoken to her.
Tori levelled a look at him, hands on hips. “I’m not leading you to your death. If I wanted you dead there’s a whole host of city guards who’d be especially glad to see you. I can drop you off at their front door, free of charge, if you’d like?” The boy gulped, head swiveling left and right as he looked along the deserted alley. Tori nodded. “Didn’t think so. I would go first but I need to shut and lock this behind us. Unless you have knowledge of code crackers and underground tunnels?”
His expression was one of someone who’d just been told the grass was blue. Tori couldn’t blame him, but, really, what were his other options? He momentarily debated with himself before hastily scrambling through the opening.
Right behind him, Tori swung the grate over with a clank and hung from it with her full weight to check it was securely in place.
Dropping to the ground, she spun in a circle, arms wide, as the dark tunnel flooded with light from the automatic lamps mounted along the smooth stone walls. The boy eyed her warily.
Tori flashed him a grin. “Welcome to the rebellion—we hope you enjoy your stay.”