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Hunter's Night
The bike screamed down the straight, rider tucked in behind the windscreen. A board emerged from behind the fence, large cards read; +1.32 ST2. Blue eyes darted over before snapping ahead once more. Her HUD was glitching again so the board was a welcome backup. A pair of men behind the wall followed the rider and bike as it streaked by before hovering over the tablet in front of them. “She's two seconds off your time, Alex.”

A third man chuckled. “Still on Setting One too.”

The engineer went on. “Yeah, I just told her to switch though. If that works, you'll pick up some time in the corkscrew. Rizza will love that.”

The man smiled. “I'm not worried about Rizza.” He looked up at the track screens as different camera views followed the rider around the twisting circuit. The hollow tapping on a tablet stopped. He smirked. “Okay, I'm not overly worried about him.”

“That's more like it.” There was another silence before the engineer spoke again. “So...have you asked her yet?”

Alex grinned mischievously. “Actually no. I'm going to just send her out in free practice. If she doesn't freak out...” That immediately prompted a strange look from the engineer but the man plowed on. “...If she doesn't freak out, then I'll have her run the second practice and then see what happens in qualifying.” The engineer just stared. “Luca...” A hand smacked the guy's shoulder playfully. “Look at what she did in in the liter class. She's brilliant, composed and smooth. You said so yourself! Plus, look at what she helped me do last year. I had nothing to help me fight off Rizza and now I'm right on his heels.” He was serious. “Hargrave had to go, Luca. He is absolutely useless on a GP bike and you know it.” Dangerous too but that was left unsaid.

The engineer sighed. “I know, Alex, and yes James'll be happier on the Yamaha but...she's a rookie. A true rookie...”

“She's got the license, Luca, she's got two GT championships including last year and everyone in the world knows it's really three. If not for that fucking psycho fan..." Luca's eyes went wide. "No, stop it. The bloody media was unfair about it and everyone knows it. Can you blame her for not talking about it? Really? ...and she went back to GT and completely dominated. Again.
Fresh offa that.” He had a look about him, one that said he meant business. “Fresh off. GT is nuts. You wanna see her splattered all over a cobbled retaining wall?” More silence met him. “For crying out loud! If she can control those monster machines on the street, the street Luca, she can handle MotoGP.” The man's brows rose in emphasis. "She's been testing GP bikes for five years. Nika is the real deal. She's been ready."

“...I mean clearly, look at the data.” The two eyed each other.

The increasing crescendo of a closing engine turned both the men's heads toward the last turn leading to the straight. A bike appeared sliding along on slick-black rubber, rear tire leading until the line was reasonably straight, before the optical illusion of standing still at the end turned. The bike became a bullet once more, its rider having guided the machine to rights again while rewarding the maneuver with a full throttle.

Alex flipped a switch near the barrier and the light bar suspended over the finish line read a solid green. The bike screamed past, chased by the dual-tone popping of the Ducati’s exhaust and the unmistakably-sweet smell of burnt high octane race fuel. Yay fossil fuels. The echo bounced and vibrated through the empty stands with fervor. Both men remaining silent for Turn 1, watching the young woman trail-brake once more to slide the rear wheel out and point the bike into the next turn as soon as possible.


His reply was automatic. “She's only had a lap, Alex.” Luca glanced at the tablet. “Well. Picked up .12 already.”

A huge grin met that announcement. "She's jumped right to the middle of the satellite times." Alex laughed in an imitation of a long forgotten comic from last century and rubbed his hands together. “We're going to make so much money...” And in his best Yoda-voice, because Star Wars was forever.. “Proud Paolo will be, yes.”

Luca laughed too. He knew the jokes well. Alex Castori was not a man concerned with money but then neither was Paolo Bisciotti, the Sporting Director for the racer's factory Ducati team. Winning and having fun, that was Alex's goal and through five championships in MotoGP alone he had done just that. So they let him. Teaching his young protégé the same thing might be tough though. She was as serious a person as they'd ever met, almost (There could be some real stiff dicks in motorsports). However the older racer was convinced that he could crack her stoic shell...because the fans were going to eat her up.

Neither the men across barrier and fence, then track then barrier and another fence noticed anything beyond their tablets, flat screens and the rider. Twenty minutes passed before the pit board came out one last time, its large black display digitally carded with a large, 'P I T.' The bike screamed by, a blur of red, full on the throttle until it seemed too late to save at turn 1 without shooting across the sand runoff beyond. Once more the rider's knee stuck out as she sat up in the seat before the rear tire slid from side to side and ultimately settled to the left. The bike seemed to fold over in a precisely smooth action not unlike a gliding turn of a fighter jet. The figure in the distance skimmed a knee over red and white painted rumble strips lightly as the machine arced around the wide turn impossibly close to the pavement. It was unbelievable really that the bike could remain whole on such narrow strips of the slick tires. But it did. The bike exited the turn to stand upright once more and a roar of its historic and established L-twin driven engine echoed down along the stands even after the bike and rider could no longer be seen.

The men huddled over their work once more, occasionally glancing up at the screens above to the feed from the track drones. A short time later the bike could be heard again but it slowed and entered an apparent opening in the barricade not previously visible from the main grandstands. The rider appeared relaxed, shifted in her saddle and keyed the helmet's visor up before disappearing beyond the buildings across the way.

Nika coasted into the garages stopping just before running over a mechanic who did not move out of her way. From the way he did not appear worried and the fact that he held the bike by its front fairing once she'd stopped indicated this to be normal and a part of his job. Another man emerged from within the open garage the bike had stopped in front of and grabbed the tail of the bike just as the rider swung her right leg forward over the tank and handlebars and hopped off. A somewhat scuffed black glove was removed and tucked under her arm as the other glove was removed as well. Bare fingers actuated the strap release under her chin and the black leather-clad rider disappeared through a side door into the building.

She emerged shortly and while still wearing the black skin tight leather suit, her helmet and gloves were elsewhere. The young woman turned upon exiting, her black-stubbled head a prominent feature amid the area. All along the paddock people worked, all wearing the same red and black liveried pit shirts. They paid the rider no special mind as if she were a regular sight here.

Nika turned left and disappeared once more, this time into a garage bay. A man met her, his average size served only to call attention to how small she really was. They hovered over a laptop, yes a laptop, that the man held with the carelessness only an engineer could accomplish. She pointed to various points on the screen and offered feedback where he asked more pointed questions. Ultimately the conversation was short and ended with her straight faced nod and his triumphant smirk. He ambled off nearly dropping his laptop several times as he typed with one hand and held the thing with the other. The woman turned and waved to someone out of sight that offered a departing salutation. Everyone else around had converged on the bike she'd come in on. There were three more just like it parked on rear stands nearby.

She disappeared through the side door once more and emerged three minutes later in street clothes. The fit was comfortable and she cut a pleasing figure. Black and grey Merrells poked out under the legs of jeans a tad long but not offensively so and a sporty charcoal pullover marked over the chest and back with 'Ducati Corse’ rounded off her simple attire, the front zipped up to cover the black tee beneath. She had a hand in her pocket and waved minimally to another farewell once the door closed. A cold hand rubbed at her bare head walked down the lane toward the parking area where riders and crew parked their vehicles. She waved off an offer of a ride in an ancient golf cart bedazzled in ridiculous spinning rims with a shy smile. Retro was in.

There were quite a few very nice cars in the lot; two Ferraris one red the other a yellow convertible, numerous Porsches, Teslas, Hummers, a gaggle of Mercedes and several poor saps with a Land Rovers. She hated those things.

Two rows in saw her hit a button on her fob. She’d disabled the proximity sensors in favor of manual because she was a woman and skeevy people could be lurking. The security here was good but she wasn’t looking to get carjacked. In her old car. The lights on a ten-year old black sapphire metallic M3 Sedan flashed once. It was a sleeper. She climbed into the driver's seat, adorably perhaps, the bucket seat was not far from the steering wheel. She was short after all. The woman closed her door, locked it, and buckled her safety harness The car was in pristine condition and seemed as though it could have been delivered straight from the dealer that afternoon. But a decade ago. The flawless black leather interior even smelled new. She’d bought the car when she was 18 from a now-deceased mobster-she did not kill-as a 'Plan F' getaway car. Beneath the beautiful exterior the BMW was retrofitted with top of the line, cutting edge bulletproof plating and glass, custom suspension and a rocket-fast tuned motor. The passengers were safe from nearly everything save a direct hit from a tank. Or maybe a meteor.

Nika pressed the start button, the M-Class v12 engine roared to life and sounded like a fucking race car. She released the e brake, shifted into first gear and then pulled slowly forward and out. Smooth as liquid silk.

The car had almost nothing personal in it, no little baubles or even loose change. The exception was hanging from her rearview; a little blue cartoon alien called 'Stitch.' The windscreen’s HUD was minimized to the basics. She was on manual drive and integrated safety features wouldn’t key news alerts or anything remotely distracting like that due to safety regs. The climate controls sensed she was cold and brought the cabin temperature up. Her seat heater turned on too.

It had been a productive day testing for Alex on the track. She did like that bike of his and was in a good mood having managed not to ride it into any walls. Her index fingers tapped to some old American music coming in faintly through the speakers but she kept her hands light at 3 and 9 o’clock as nearly-black eyes flitted over her surroundings. Always searching.

A half hour through the flashing lights and cacophony that is evening traffic aboveground anywhere nowadays saw her turn the wheel and pull into the bay of her condo’s building. Security had long ago necessitated the advent of such procedures. Crime. Tsk. In her building, which had been inherited from her parents -her half Russian father specifically- it had a great security system. Recently upgraded to keep the tenants happy what with the explosion of trendy skyscrapers in the area.

You drove up to the bay, the bay door opened, into the bay you proceeded which happened to be 14’x22’x8' exactly, the bay door closed. Security measures scanned for intruders, the concierge said hello unless you opted out of personal contact, blah blah, the bay lifted you to your front door. You got out, got your crap out, locked your car...unlocked your door and you were home. Simplistic. Then, the lift stowed your car underground in the parking caddy. No nosey neighbors to deal with, no weather, no fucking media. It was great.

“Hello Nika.” Her AI offered a greeting as she entered, turning on the lights. “The door is secure.”

“Thank you, Gillian. Anyone come by to kill me today?” She emptied her pockets into a basin appeared to turn from within the wall; key, wallet. Her shoes were poked into a floor cubby that had also opened. Nom nom. Condo hungry. Mmm, shoes! Sometimes she even said it aloud.

“Not today, better luck next time.” The calming voice stated.

“Rats.” Nika stretched her shoulders and padded into the kitchen. The panels in the foyer closed.


“How ‘bout two chicken burgers, no bun and steamed mixed veggies?”

“Sure. We have that in stock. Regular settings?”

“Yup. Save that menu indefinitely under 'Boring Betty.' ” She finished washing her hands and blotted them dry on an old-fashioned hand towel. “A bottle of Waterlytes too, please.” The dark countertop parted briefly and the woman’s request rose from below like a missle from the silos of yesteryear. Nika grabbed it and drank as she walked.

Through the open living area, past a cozy library, reading nook, bathroom, guest room, other guest room, office, and workshop. She stopped and took a long pull from the bottle, eyeing the disemboweled engine floating on a mag stand. The motorbike’s carcass, looking rather empty, stood upright nearby. Mmm...maybe the pistons tonight?

“Have the oil rings arrived yet?” She’d sourced them from the US a month ago.

“They have not.”

“Too bad.” Nika continued on through the last room; her bedroom. She changed into shorts and a soft tee for bed, even though it was early.

“I have the news.” Gillian stated.

“Did anyone get nuked?”


“Anything really weird happen?”

“Nothing significant, no.”

“Did Princess Charlotte have her baby?”


“Then I don’t care.”

“Noted. You have 3,487 new messages.”

“Ugh. Anything flagged seven or higher?”

“MacGinty says your helmet is broken.”

“Yeah, I knew that. What adjective did he use to describe it?”

“He said it was fuh-ckt.”

Nika chortled. It was so funny making the AI curse.

“Dainese has offered you a sponsorship for the 2046-2048 seasons.”

“Ooh, really? I do like their stuff…forward that to Francesca.” Her agent, the spitfire Italian woman handled that kind of thing. Nika plopped on the couch.

“Yes, really. I do not detect a false address. Message sent. End of level seven or higher messages. Your dinner is ready.”

Nika ate at the bar, feet swinging above the polished floor. “When does the new Deadpool movie come out?”

“Deadpool: Classic Deadpool is slated for a July release.”

“Damn. How are my babies?”

“Dave is sick, he reports a malfunction in heat sensor 1. You have 1 in stock. Carl, Bob, Stuart, Kevin...” Nika let her go on for a minute, “...are all charged and report no anomalies.

“Excellent.” She recycled her dishes. “Add a mixed case of sensors and a tube of Molybdenum to the ASCazon order for delivery tomorrow.”


Nika washed her hands again then went back to the couch to relax. An hour into a book Gillian piped up.

“Would you like to hear a song?” It was the beginning of a coded sequence.

“What’s the song?”

“Get Back Up Again.”

“Anna Kendrick?”



The lights dimmed and things unseen shuttered and clicked. Gillian’s voice deepened from the sweet AI just moments before.

“You have a message from the Atherim...”

Nika put her book aside.

“Show me.”
The assassin sat up straighter as she read through the script. Apparently several safehouses had gone dark. Here, in Moscow. That was never good and normally not something they’d tag her for so someone at the Vat had hit the panic button. This was as close as it came to them freaking out. Next it was exploding drones of Holy Water.

She walked to the back, keyed in through the layers of security for her hidden room and stepped inside. It was a damn cool war room; Batman’d be jealous. Maybe. Young Batman, before Bitcoin. The map of the areas, neighborhoods in question were pulled up. “Deploy Defensive Algorithm Data System.”

Nika stripped and stepped into a Dragonsilk-hybrid suit. Man those things were awesome. Soft, breathable, wicking...which was good because she sweat like the dickens running around in her ballistic gear. She chose an exoskeleton she dubbed, ‘jumping bean’ then shrugged into tree climbing ballistic pants, yeah that was a hippy thing from America, and a new Arovex ballistic shirt. She’d sworn the arms of her other shirt had shrunk in the dryer but Gillian maintained it was not so. The AI was hiding something. Not really.

The microdrones would have a perimeter established now and should be painting a picture for her soon. She hummed the song that started all of this and danced around while strapping on the rest of her gear. And weapons. Gotta have those. She paused. Sniper rifle or assault shotgun? Hmm...both. She’d send Big Brother out too. Nika shrugged into a vest and pressed the seal. She stepped into boots, pulled on a balaclava, armored gloves... “Aperture Headgear.” Her collar rose, segmented, to form a hybrid mask-helmet looking thing that could have been from some badass video game. Her eyeports even glowed in a couple of different colors. That was creepy though if she caught a glimpse in the mirror. Especially red. “Aggro lights off.” Her HUD fed the drone readings, their neuromorphic chips were designed to mimic the human brain. Some of the little guys even had developed personalities; Dave for example, hated the cold. But if they said it was all clear, it was. “Gillian, Stealth Mode.” The lights switched off.

The assassin activated her Quantum Camouflage, stepped onto a lift and rose into the Moscow night. Invisible.



Edited by Nika Raskov, Jan 31 2018, 12:03 AM.

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