Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Terry abandoned the powerbike at the bridge a few hundred meters before the checkpoint, running it off the road, down the embankment and parking tight against the understructure before he waded into the river.

He swam across, letting the current take him downstream towards the woods where he exited the icy water, discarded his neoprene coverall and closed the distance to the fence on foot.

Beyond the chainlink the thin tether of the skyhook was barely visible against the moonless sky, just a tear in the blackness of his peripheral vision.

The fence, wired as it was, posed only a momentary barrier. Terry lit a monofibre blade and divided one post neatly in two to the ground before spreading the post halves, fencing still intact and live, into a large enough V for him to step through.

He had just enough time to reach the outer wall of the storage facility before he heard the sirens, saw bright blue and red light strobing against the darkness up the road. He watched for a moment, working back the distance in his head as he palmed a phone from his front pocket and dialed. There was a chirp which he answered with a time in seconds, and an acknowledgement chirp. He pocketed the phone again and sliced a set of door hinges off to slip inside the facility.

Terry moved quickly in the near darkness from memory, the storage facility was mostly empty now as the cargo had been moved into the skyhook car itself. Outside, as the first cars hit the bridge the timer on the powerbike expired, igniting several kilos of explosive and tearing the bridge off at its expansion joint, twisting steel and shattering concrete and asphalt. The lead vehicle skidded onto the bridge engulfed in flames, another hit the endwall driving blind into the flash while a third left the road and plunged into the river.

Terry felt the impact from inside and stepped up his pace.

He wound through the layers of structure until he could see the elevator car in the courtyard idling, its maglev engaged and floating it centimeters above its launch pad. The car would be fully loaded and locked up tight. There was no chance of him getting inside, and in a matter of minutes it would leave and there’d be no way out.

He ran, knowing there was little time and sure that by now his pursuers would have crossed the bridge to hunt with amplified vigor.

To his right was the maintenance trailer, and inside he tore through lockers and cabinets until he found the pressure suits required to operate on the skyhook car outside Earth’s atmosphere.

He pulled on a suit, sealed the helmet and shouldered a jet pack before locking on the gloves. Once back outside the scene took on an eerie silence. Behind him he knew were thundering feet, and ahead the rumbling readiness of several tonnes of cargo ready to be slung up the tether beyond geosynchronous orbit to the station above. Terry could only hear his breathing, and the pounding of his heart.

He jogged as quickly as the suit would allow towards the car, lumbered up the gantry and jumped the short distance to the capsule top where he climbed up to its gentle sloping dome and draped himself across it, spread eagled to wait.

The lift started slowly at first, then built to a speed at which Terry felt his bones would crush. He hovered near unconsciousness until mercifully the force of the Earth began to recede, and the capsule slowed for the last half of its journey to Skyhook Station above.

On the ground his pursuers were already alerting the sentries in orbit. They had him, they were sure.

As the capsule slowed, Terry forced himself to his feet and turned his face towards the star flecked blackness above.

Above the station, in a higher orbit was a comforting black silhouette, and it was to this Terry aimed as he fired the jetpack and accelerated away from the skyhook and Earth towards freedom.

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