Incarnations I:

The Chosen Road






Cyberpunk (kind of)

Sex: No

Violence: Yes


Feed the Bard:

Incarnations I: The Chosen Road

Incarnations II: The Garden

I hurry across the dusty street, hoping they will not see me. The air shimmers from the tarmac and the desert, the copper sun's heat blasting down. Sweat is damp upon my skin. Fear coils in my stomach. Perhaps they will let me go. Their attention is on their victims.

I see, even as I run. The victims are three young men, boys really, dressed in simple clothes like farm-workers might. Maybe they came into town because they were desperate and hoped to make some money. Instead they are just the playthings of the gang that surrounds them, kicking and beating them. Perhaps fifteen men and women, bored and cruel, callous and sadistic.

I wish I could help the boys but I do not think there is anything I can do. Though I'm a rather small woman I'm quite strong, but I have little idea how to fight.

I reach the corner of an abandoned convenience store, its windows and doors gaping. I stop once I am hidden - something makes me look back.

I see her then. She pulls up on a motorcycle, leans it upon its kickstand, swings her leg over the back and steps away. She takes off her helmet and sets it on the back of the bike. Then she regards the gang. Most of the men and women are still intent on their game. Perhaps they are angry with the boys because they had nothing to give them. Those who see her draw the attention of the others.

She simply stands and regards them, seeming entirely unafraid. Behind her the bike's heavy engine rumbles.

Something about her tugs at me. I feel a curious sense of connection to her. I take in her lithe and powerful but feminine frame and limbs. She is wearing oil-stained blue jeans over dark boots, and a faded dark red shirt. Her skin is suntanned. Her hair is long and thick, straight and black and falls loosely down her back. Even from this distance I can see that she is strikingly beautiful. Her eyes are such a brilliant light blue that they are almost like mirrors of ice.

'What do you want?' one of the men growls. 'No matter. Thanks for the gift of the bike. We'll fuck you over it. Think I'll take you first.'

He steps forward, a slim metal pipe in his hand. The others begin to spread out around her. They have knives and baseball bats.

'Leave the boys and I'll leave you alone,' she says. Her calmness is strange. Those in the gang hesitate just a moment. But they are probably too stupid, too cranked or simply too proud to show any caution and risk losing face in front of each other.

'I don't see any guns on you,' a girl, a teenager, calls from the back of the group. I see the malice in her, the lust for violence and pain.

'I don't need any.' The blue-eyed woman's words are soft enough that I barely hear them.

Then an ugly man on her right lunges at her with a knife. So fast that it seems she has moved in a single moment, she reaches out and grabs his wrist. She throws him hard to the side. I hear a dull crack of bone before his scream of pain. Now she holds the knife.

Three of them rush her at once. She kicks high, slashes, deflects, grabs a woman's hair and almost cuts her head from her shoulders with a plunging cut.

Others close in, thinking they can bring her down with their weight and numbers, by grappling her. She knocks two of them down and leaps high. She smashes the heel of her right foot into the side of a man's head, snapping his neck. She flips once in midair before landing easily several steps away. A man on her left swings at her with a baseball bat. She ducks and slams the base of her hand into his sternum so hard that he is catapulted backwards several yards. He lands in a crumpled heap, twitching and dying, his chest crushed.

She stands then, a slight sideways smile upon her face. The rest are uncertain now. An injured woman and man are screaming.

She tips her head sideways at the three boys. 'Go,' she says. Limping, bleeding, they run off.

She watches but she does not seem to have noticed one member of the gang circling behind her. He brings out a handgun to shoot her in the back from just eight or ten feet away.

I am about to call out, to warn her, but somehow she has sensed his intent. She spins low even before he pulls the trigger, moving out of the path of the bullet. She uses her momentum to hurl the knife she is still holding in her right hand. It takes him in the throat and he collapses.

She seems to dismiss them then. She steps back to her motorcycle, dons her helmet and swings her leg over the seat. She nudges the throttle and flips closed the kickstand. Then she drives slowly away, the deep rumble of the engine rising then gradually fading.

My gaze follows her until she is out of sight, then I turn and hurry around the abandoned convenience store. Quickly I make my way home. My mind and emotions are filled with what I have seen. I wish that I had such fearlessness. Even more I wish I had such ability. I have always been so afraid, living here. But there is no way to leave - not without money or papers. And I can be tracked through the implant in my back.




At home, my father is juiced on some kind of slam cocktail he has injected himself with. It lets him work hard, helps him to survive in the workplace he has to endure, but it makes him aggressive.

I am late and I could not find good food today. As I apologise, he stands and regards me impassively, dark stubble on his broad face, fists like hams clenched at his sides, hate in his eyes, the smell of sour sweat rolling from him. I know what is coming. He takes me by the hair and shakes me. He throws me across the room. A few blows later and he leaves me alone, panting and holding my ribs, blood dripping down the side of my face.

He loved me once. He started to drug himself so that he could work more and bring home enough money for us to eat. I do not know if I am simply sorry for what has happened to him and hence to me, or if I despise him for his weakness.

My mother looks on, empty-eyed, apparently without much reaction at all to what has just happened. She always seems empty these days.

Slowly, painfully, I climb to my feet and go to the bathroom. I wash my face. For long minutes I stare at my reflection, see the hopelessness in my green eyes. I pull back my blonde hair to better examine the bruise around my right eye. It is not so serious and the bleeding has stopped.

I let my head slump forwards and stare into the basin. I so much want to leave this place. But I'll be hunted and killed if I try.




Three evenings later I head home from my secretarial job at the failing cybernetics business I work at. Passing a garage, I hear the familiar sound of drills and banging. There is a massive truck out front, armed and armoured. The panels on the sides are being replaced.

To my surprise, I see her there. She is lifting one of the immense metal plates. I do not think even the strongest men would find it easy to lift, but she manages it - though I can see it takes great effort. As she holds it steady, a man in overalls drills the bolts into place.

I stand and watch as the last two plates are put back. I like watching her. She is wearing the same jeans and boots I saw her in before, and a sleeveless white t-shirt. Her muscles slide like steel cables beneath lean skin. I like looking at the shape of her breasts as she moves.

When she has finished she steps back and regards her handiwork. The man in overalls retreats to the workshop without saying a word.

I am surprised to find myself walking over to her. She watches me, her face neutral. As I near her I look into her eyes. From so close their colour is quite astonishing. Arctic blue and so reflective; beautiful but disturbing too.

She watches, apparently relaxed, as I reach into my bag. Perhaps she expects me to take out a gun but I guess that, if so, she perceives little danger to herself. Instead I bring out a bottle of water that I have not opened. I offer it to her, just holding it out. I do not say anything.

She regards me, just a hint of puzzlement on her face. I also see something else, and I wonder if perhaps she feels that curious feeling that I felt when I first saw her and which I still feel. Not exactly recognition but some kind of resonance, as if I had been waiting for her, as if something about her fits something that I need.

She reaches out and takes the bottle. She unscrews the sealed cap and it pops as the vacuum within is flooded. She sniffs the water and then drinks. She must have been thirsty and I can see that she enjoys it and is relieved. I am surprised by how happy that makes me.

She hands back the half-empty bottle.

'It's all right,' I say. 'You can have it.'

She gives a tiny nod of thanks, and drains the rest.




I begin to visit her every day. It takes three such visits before she says a single word to me, but I can see that she likes my company. I tell her funny stories. I have always been good at stories, whether speaking of things that really happened or simply making things up. We usually sit upon a low wall to one side of the garage, and I give her a bottle of water - and now I bring my own too. After a while I tell her that I have to go back home and leave. A couple of times she raises her hand slightly to say goodbye.

On perhaps my eighth visit, she sees the swelling of my broken nose and split lip. I almost decided not to come to her today. I feel ashamed though I know I should not.

Though to most onlookers her face might seem expressionless, I can see a cold fire in her eyes, honed rage. She does not say anything for a while.

As we sit in our usual place, shaded from the blasting heat of the sun, I try to tell her a story. I find it hard to put any positive emotion into it.

'Who did this?' she asks of a sudden when I am halfway through a sentence.

I am silent. I feel confused and look down. 'It doesn't matter,' I say. I am surprised by how hoarse my voice has suddenly become. 'My father did it. The slam he takes has changed him. He loved me and was proud of me before.'

'Why does he take it?'

'He couldn't cope with the work he has to do. He works for Hugo Fall. The man's a total bastard. Has the police in his pocket. If my father tried to quit, Fall would make sure he would never be able to work again. He's effectively just a slave.'

'Are you chipped?' she asks me.

I nod. 'I can't leave.'

She looks straight ahead, thinking. 'Who or what are you chipped to?' she asks after a while.

'Lightsec. No one I know personally.'

She gives a slight nod. I think she has made a decision but I am not sure.




She is not there the next day, nor for the two days following. I am worried for her, which I tell myself is an exaggeration. Very few people would be able to hurt her if they tried. Then the worry comes back some more.

I am also worried for myself. What if she has simply left? I have no way of finding her. I am angry that I did not have the courage simply to ask her how I might contact her. I guess I had hoped that she would tell me before she left.




On the fourth morning after I last saw her, I turn on the news. I have a feeling that something has happened that I should know about. I had strange dreams about her last night though I cannot remember more than a sense of a furious struggle, noise, desperation and rage.

I learn that there has been a firefight at Fall Industries. Its security has been eliminated. Hugo Fall's head has been found mounted on the gate. The assets of the company have been divided between the employees.

Later in the day I hurry from my job to the garage. I have found it difficult to wait to see if she is there, but whatever may have happened last night, I am still chipped and must go to work. Now I just want to know that she is all right.

When I get there she is waiting for me, sitting at our usual place on the low wall in the hot shade. She seems no different to usual. I smile at her, as I always do, and she gives me a slight sideways smile back. I see what I think is almost a touch of shyness or embarrassment in her expression, though I may be wrong. I love it when she smiles though she does so very rarely.

I am about to reach into my bag to hand her her water, but she beats me by reaching to her side and holding up two bottles - and gives one to me.

'Thank you,' I say, surprised. I sit down.

'There has been a break-in at Lightsec,' she says without preamble. 'They've tried to hide it, but their new tracking equipment won't be up and running for at least two days. So I'm going to take you to a surgeon I know so that you can have your chip removed.'

I stare at her. I knew that she was behind what happened at Fall Industries. I understand she must be the one who broke into Lightsec and wrecked their equipment and its backups.

'All right,' I say, taking a deep breath and letting it out. My words seem pathetic, but she looks at me and smiles again.




'I need to go with you,' I say to her three days later. My back is still a little sore after the operation but I am recovering quickly.

She looks at me. She is standing by her motorcycle. I am glad that she has come to my family's home - I have no idea how she found it - but I am so afraid that she has only come to say goodbye.

'Is your father better?' she asks.

'He is struggling and very sick, but I think he will be. Mother is taking care of him. She always does, no matter what.' A slight frown touches my brow as I wonder when it was that my mother first started to hate me. It was a long time ago, I think.

Blue eyes regard me then look down. She has said all she wishes to say or knows how to say, I suspect. I know that she would probably find it very difficult to communicate her feelings to me. I think she thinks she just needs to go, that it is best if she goes without me and that she should get on with it.

'I want to go with you,' I say. 'You are reluctant to take me because you know how dangerous it will be. I guess you care about me in some way. But my safety isn't your decision to make. It's mine. It's my life. The only thing I need to know is whether you want me with you. Or even if you'd mind if I followed you.'

She remains silent for a while. 'I wouldn't mind,' she says at length. She makes a small, helpless gesture. 'I'll try to protect you if you want to come.'

'I am only afraid I will put you in danger,' I say. That is actually my main concern - if she gets hurt because she is looking out for me because I cannot look out for myself.

She shakes her head, dismissing my fear. 'Are you sure?'

'Yes. I want to go away from this place.' I glance away, then just look back at her and say exactly what I feel. 'More than anything, I want to be with you.'

She gives me a wide grin then, the first unrestrained smile I have seen from her. Her eyes are full of light. Then, as her smile relaxes, the ice blue of her gaze softens to an amazing tenderness and warmth. Perhaps I should be surprised that she has that within her, but I am not. 'Then go and get what you need to take,' she says. 'I'll wait here for you.'

I am delighted. I run to the house and take only a few essentials and put them in a small bag I strap across my back. It only takes two or three minutes to do. Then I go to the living room, where my mother is tending my father. He is lying on the sofa and is pale and sweating, but when he looks at me I see more warmth in his gaze than I have seen in a couple of years.

I put an arm around my mother's neck and kiss her temple. Then I lean forward and touch my hand to my father's cheek. I do not feel that there is any need to say anything.

'I'm so sorry,' he says.

I give him a small smile. 'I understand.' I do not say anything more. I do not accept what happened but at least I understand it, I think. I just feel sad, for both of us.

He watches me as I stand up. We hold eye contact for a moment, then I turn and walk through the open front door and close it behind me.

She is sitting astride the motorcycle. She kick-starts it when she sees me and holds her helmet out as I reach her. 'Put this on and climb on the back. We'll go straight to a place that can sell us one for you.'

I take it and slip it over my head and clip it fast. Then I swing my leg over the back of the big bike and settle my feet on the short pipes that jut for the purpose.

'Hold onto me,' she says, glancing back.

I wrap my arms around her waist, leaning forward as she is leaning forward. I feel the press of her back against my chest, the feel of her breathing, her warmth, the strength of her.

'Hold on,' she says again. Then she turns the accelerator and we ease away. For a few seconds she goes quite slowly; and then she speeds up, though I am sure she will drive much more rapidly later, when we have a second helmet and we are out in the desert.




The End


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