More People of the Forest

Here’s a third extract from People of the Forest, the new novel I am writing. Meet Len and Samir, a couple of Trackers, law and order officers charged with keeping an eye out for people’s movements, especially criminals and dissidents. Everyone is fitted at birth with a self-expanding anklet that cannot be removed. It serves to track people and is permanently connected to the secure TrackNet. As for Isla Whitehead, mentioned here, you’ve already met her, she was the girl in the second extract I published, … and what about the girl? She’s a screen wizzer, a magician with computers. And here is a link to the first extract: The birth of a new novel.

Remember this is a draft and could change in the final book.

“Get your stunner,” Len said as he buckled the belt of his holster around his waist.

“What’s up?” Samir asked, biting an outsized chunk off a sandwich he’d fished from the machine.

“The two cams came back on at Mack’s shack.”

“It was probably a bug. Anyway, we can’t both go. Somebody’s got to man the screens.”

Len shook his head. “Two cams don’t just switch on and off on their own. That’s no technical glitch. Someone’s messing with TrackNet. You were right about a distraction. This is big stuff. We both go.”

“What about my sandwich?”

Len rolled his eyes. “You’ll get fat.” They were all getting fat stuck behind screens all day. They hardly ever went out on a mission. Seeing his friend’s offended look, he ran his fingers through Samir’s hair. “Bring it with you. I’ll drive.”

They were just out the door when an alarm rang on one of the screens. Samir halted. Len grabbed him by the arm and pulled him towards the Pod. “Check it on your Tab.”

Len slammed on the brakes as he was about to pull out of the Pod park. The Governor’s sleek Pod slid to a halt blocking the road. The sight astonished and alarmed him. The Governor never visited the Tracker station, lest it be for some flashy photo op with the press.

“What the…” Samir said, rubbing his head where he’d banged it on the windscreen. He’d been reading the alarm message on his Tab and hadn’t seen what had happened.

Len grabbed Sami’s arm to silence him and ordered his window down. The Governor did likewise. Seated next to him was the head of Trackers. “Where are you two off to in such a hurry?” the Governor asked.

“Two cases of untagged suspects and an agression,” Len replied.

“That can wait. Get back inside. I need to talk to you.”

Samir began to object, but Len backed their Pod out of earshot as he ordered the window up. “That’s the Governor, you daft idiot,” he muttered under his breath. “Cool it if you wanna have a job tomorrow.”

In the Tracker station, the two Trackers stood to attention as the Governor sprawled in Len’s chair. Next to him stood the Head Tracker, looking embarrassed. Over the Governor’s shoulder, Len and Samir had a good view of the archeological site on the screens. A youth was rampaging through the ruins knocking over sign posts as he did. Close on his heals loomed an angry bear. Abruptly the youth halted. Ducking under the bear’s outstretched claws, he drove a long knife between the bear’s ribs. The bear faltered, opened its mouth in a silent roar and collapsed forward, trapping the boy as it did.

Both Len and Samir were so engrossed in the action that neither heard a word the Governor said. “What did I say?” the man asked, getting to his feet. He was taller than both of them and much fitter. Some people apparently had the time and the means to work out. Len just stared back, at a loss what to say, but Samir pointed at the screen, his mouth open. When the Governor and the head of Trackers turned to look, they saw only mournful monuments. Neither the bear nor the boy were visible. The Governor frowned as he fixed the two before turning to their chief.

“I’m beginning to wonder if these two wouldn’t be better doing another job.”

The chief nodded in agreement, staring at his feet. So much for siding with his men.

“I’ll give you a last chance to redeem yourselves.” The Governor pulled a photo from his inside pocket and slapped it down on the table. Len, Samir and the head of Trackers inched forward to get a closer look.

The girl was probably about fifteen, though she looked younger. The lines of her face were full and rounded as if yet unmarked by life. Her lips compared to the relative plainness of the rest of her appearance were surprisingly sensuous. The way her chin protruded hinted she knew what she wanted and expected to get it. Her pale brown hair hung to her shoulders and partly concealed a prominent forehead. There was an intelligent look in her eyes although Len had the curious impression she was making an effort to appear normal and nondescript.

“Ilsa Whitehead,” the Governor said. “Don’t be misled by her apparent innocence. She is a very dangerous specimen that just escaped from one of our top security reform schools.”

How ever did she manage that? The place was reputed impregnable. It was the latest generation, high-tech establishment for young offenders that boasted all the latest security gadgets.

“Not only did she break their security system, but we suspect she deactivated her anklet.”

“How did she do that?” Samir exclaimed.

“We know she is a screen wizzer. It was messing with government security systems that got her into reform school in the first place.”

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