Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

“What the hell is he riding – or is that piloting?”

“Riding. Even though the round bits front and rear aren’t wheels: they’re gravtac repulsor loops.”

Blake turned to stare at Neville: “Nice. So what the frack is it?”

Neville smiled: “Vincent Black Banshee.”

“Aren’t they illegal?”

“Not yet.”

The ten-foot long vehicle they pursued – seemingly made only of flowing lines and reflections of the objects it passed – accelerated away from them without difficulty, then pulled an impossibly sharp left-turn and shot up the side of a tall building.

Blake punched the roof lining of their unmarked pursuit car.

“Bloody marvellous. How are we supposed to catch something that can do that?”

Neville grinned: “Vincent’s Black Ghost was the first gravtac motorbike. As the gravtac was like you get on the boots, it behaved like a motorbike. The Black Banshee added a gravitic field generator and Lenkormian Forever Drive. That means as far as it’s concerned, ‘down’ is whichever way the underside points.”

Blake clamped a hand on Neville’s shoulder: “He’s been causing chaos for months. Given the state of the streets inside the London Orbital, his antics were tolerated – until he started tagging secure vehicles.”

“He only showed the inadequacies of our security versus new technology. He saved lives: we revised our procedures and stopped two hi-tech assassination attempts cold.”

Blake nodded: “I’ll give him that, but the feeling is that he’s with the activists.”

Neville slammed the car to a stop: “They what?”

“They think he’s setting himself set up as a popular icon to heighten the impact when he pulls something grievous. It’s not like we could stop him.”

Neville chuckled.

Blake stared at him: “What’s so funny?”

Neville pointed out the window on Blake’s side. Barely twenty feet away, he could see his reflection in the gleaming black panels of a thoroughbred hybrid of drag bike and cruise missile. It hung inches from the pavement, the rider sitting relaxed with hands in lap and helmeted head turned toward them. The gloss black bodysuit, bulky from chest inserts, matched the gloss black finish of the machine. Just forward of a shapely thigh, Blake could see the word ‘Vincent’ in white block capitals on a curved gold banner.

He paused; shapely thigh?

“That’s no man!”

Neville applauded: “Well done, detective. That’s Metropolitan Armed Response Sergeant Suzy Mandrill. It was the only way we could think of to get urgent security improvements past the bureaucracy.”

Blake’s head came round so fast he winced: “’We’?”

Neville smiled: “You must have misheard me.”

Blake clenched his fists and pointed out of his window: “You just told me that two elite officers conspired to subvert security protocols.”

Neville peered over Blake’s hand: “Me and who?”

Blake looked back. Between his window and a shop entrance, only a solitary fox trotted by.

Neville drove while Blake swore himself out. After the silence had stretched for an hour, he stopped the car and turned to look at Blake.

Blake glared and snapped: “What?”

“I was wondering if you’d like to come round for dinner one evening. Bring Heather; I’m sure she and Suzy will get along.”

Blake’s face turned a colour normally reserved for beetroot: “Your girlfriend is the Black Rider?”

Neville smiled and shook his head: “You do have the strangest ideas, detective. We just thought you’d like a relaxing evening. Maybe even go for a ride. You know, see how pillion suits you?”

Blake rested his head in his hands: “We’re all going to jail.”

Neville patted his shoulder: “Only if you tell, detective, only if you tell.”

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