Author: Justin Williams

“Shit…” Velia pulled the car over on the side of the road as the check engine light flashed. The car sputtered to a stop and Velia glanced at the rearview mirror.
Lily shifted in her sleep, causing a stretching sound to emanate from the leather seats. Her pink and blue clothes were still wet from the rain and her hair clung to her face.
Velia clicked the seatbelt off and stepped out into the storm.
Rain continued to pelt the cement of the silent city. The nearby buildings were dilapidated. Some of the windows were broken. No light came from within.
Velia’s white boots splashed through a puddle as she stepped around the side of the vehicle. She pulled her hair back, throwing the hood up.
Velia stopped.
A soldier in black bulletproof armor held a gun at her. Blue lettering glowed from his chest, arms, and back. It said MDF. “Ma’am, why are you out past curfew? There could be Marked out in the streets. It isn’t safe.”
“It’s my daughter.” Velia motioned to the car. “She was at a friend’s house. I only meant to pick her up and head home, but the car broke down.”
The soldier leaned to the side, looking in the car window. “Alright. Wake her up.”
Velia stared at the officer a moment. “Okay.”
She turned and opened the door, shaking Lily awake.
“Velia…? Are we there yet?”
“Not yet. We’re just going to take a short ride with this officer, and we’ll be there, okay?” Velia reached for a pair of black gloves and put them on Lily’s hands. “Keep these on. I don’t want you to catch a cold.”
Lily nodded before scooting out of the car.
Velia grabbed her hand.
“Don’t worry. I’ll keep you safe,” the soldier said.
“Thank you, sir,” Velia said.
The man turned and at that moment, a noise came from his helmet.
“Officer 277, a Marked was sighted southbound, in your direction.”
Velia tensed and reached for her back pocket.
“She stole a black car and has been traveling with a little girl held hostage.”
As 277 turned back around, Velia lunged at him with her knife.
He moved his arm in one swift motion, grabbing Velia’s wrist.
Velia’s eyes widened.
277 moved the gun in his other hand and pointed it at Velia’s face.
He turned to look at Lily. One of her gloves was missing, revealing a glowing purple mark.
277 released Velia’s wrist and pressed a button on the side of his helmet, pulling the visor up. His face was older.
He stared at Lily’s hand.
Flashing lights approached in the distance.
277 looked back at Velia, placing his gun away and handing her a key card. “You’ll need this to get through the city gate.”
“Run. I’ll handle this.”
Velia nodded. “Let’s go.”
An MDF car stopped behind Velia’s. Men wearing identical armor as 277 stepped out. One of them with a special star symbol approached 277.
“Where’s the Marked?”
“I’m not sure. All I found was the empty car.”
“Dammit. Not again.” He glanced around the area. “No sign of them anywhere?”
“Not that I could find.”
A low growling voice came from the commander before he turned to the others.
277 placed one hand on the commander’s shoulder. “We should head back. It’s late and we won’t find them in this weather.”
He slowly shakes his head and looks off in the distance. “You’re right.”
“Also, can I get a new key card? I lost it.”
“Again? What the hell, Jerry?”