The Tracker

Jed felt like he hadn’t slept in days. He rested his eyes when he could, but sleep was a luxury he dare not take. Not when the Tracker was after him.

He didn’t know what the Tracker looked like, and Jed knew he never would. Not until the moment it was ready to take his life.

The Tracker was relentless. Escape was an illusion, nothing more than a brief respite from the inevitable.

He stumbled through the crowds, and the mass of humanity gave him no comfort. Yoran had told him how a Tracker was a master of disguise. It could be anywhere and anyone. The woman in the severe suit swearing at that urchin. One of the kids swaggering out of the alley, looking like they owned the place if you ignored the vacant looks in their eyes. The man leaning against the wall with his hat pulled down.

With so many possibilities, Jed would go mad if he avoided everyone. So he walked straight, knocking into those who didn’t move from his path. But he didn’t apologise. He had nothing to be sorry for. Nothing important.

His only regret was in ever meeting Yoran.

The screen buzzed in his pocket, and he pulled it out, swiping it awake. He’d acquired it yesterday, discarding his old one when he knew it was compromised. But when he saw the familiar toothy grin on the glass, he knew his attempt at subterfuge had been in vain. Yoran still had his claws in Jed.

I’ve always wanted to see the city, the message read.

In the rat-run between the concrete and glass monoliths, Jed shuddered. He resisted the impulse to spin round, searching for the man in his high-tech chair. He told himself it was a lucky guess, almost logical. It wasn’t like Jed had anywhere better to go. He’d never survive in the wilds.

The screen buzzed again.

Good choice of companion last night, Jed read. Particularly fine legs. Although in my condition, that will always be a priority. One always focuses on what one lacks.

Jed knew that the woman was dead. Everything he touched, Yoran destroyed.

Maybe that is why I am drawn to Trackers, a new message said, the letters forming as Jed stared at the screen. So perfect, and so focused. No weaknesses and no distractions. They are, in many ways, too good to be true.

He shouldn’t let the taunts get to him, but Jed instantly recalled all Yoran had told him. Trackers could hear a heartbeat from a hundred metres. They had three-sixty degree vision. They could discern an individual’s scent in a crowded room.

When Jed tried to laugh, Yoran continued. They were experts in weaponry, but could kill with their bare hands. They had no emotion, but immense intelligence. They lived to track and to kill. They were relentless phantoms that never ceased.

Jed gripped the blade in his pocket. It never felt right, with the joints missing on his little finger. A down-payment, Yoran had called that. Something to act as a reminder. Full payment would be due when the Tracker caught up with him.

No amount of words could make Yoran understand how it had all been an accident.

Jed closed the screen and sealed it in his jacket before walking off, keeping to the middle of the street, feeling the sun’s oppressive heat as it reflected from the buildings. He squinted towards an alley, where he could see a figure on the corner, one knee bent, a foot flat against the wall. A male, from the shape of his body. In silhouette, it looked like he only had one leg.

The pose mocked Jed. This was the way Yoran would tease him.

He slipped the blade from his pocket and prepared to meet his destiny.

“Hey!” he shouted. The figure looked up, features masked by the sun’s glare. “You!” The man brought an arm up, shielding his eyes. The shadow allowed Jed to see them, wide with surprise. That changed to fear when his gaze dropped to Jed’s blade.

The man spun and ran down the alley.

Jed powered after him, into the shadows and round a corner. The man moved fast, dodging round a couple of people. Jed followed, pushing past the old man who was stupid enough to get in his way, ignoring the grunt and the shout. He stumbled, recovered quickly, turned another corner.

And stopped.

The alley was empty.

It was cool out of the sun. Jed smelt stale urine and damp cardboard. A metal staircase ran up the side of a building, and maybe there was movement a few floors up. But there was no sign of the man.

Jed was in the open, with nobody around. He gripped the knife tighter, pushing the shakes away.

Something slapped his back. “What where you’re going, moron!”

Jed spun.

The old man wasn’t that old after all. His eyes blazed, and the creases in his face were from hard living, not long years. They spoke of determined violence.

The old man was not as he appeared. Trackers were masters of disguise.

Jed snarled. He lunged with his fist, and felt the blade sink in. Warmth flooded over his hand.

The man staggered back, mouth open with a soundless cry. Hands clutched his stomach, and his eyes opened wide with pain and disbelief. Not the eyes of a machine. Not the eyes of a Tracker.

Of course not.

Jed would never see a Tracker. How could he see a phantom?

He turned and ran.

It was all he had left to do. Run until he could run no more.


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