When I stopped for breath, I called Guillemet. <<Hey, Stray,>> he buzzed in my ear. <<How did the job go?>>
I took a deep breath and then said one word: "Golconda."
<<Fuck.>> I rarely heard Guillemet swear - sometimes I thought cursing wasn't programmed into his motherboard - but this time it was justified. <<Okay, you've got to get out of there.>>
"No shit," I said. "I ran like hell. They'll still come after me though."
<<Of course.>> He was silent for a few seconds and then said. <<They can track you.>>
"How?" I looked up at the cage of girders in the sky. "I wasn't tagged by anything, I would have felt it."
<<Nanotags,>> he said. <<Specifically designed. They have implants in their eyes. They look at you, they can track you.>>
"Fuck!" I said. "They saw me!"
<<That's not good,>> he said. <<You're going to have to ditch the clothes. If its attached to them, once its gone, they can't track you. If it's on skin, you're screwed.>>
"Thanks," I said, starting to unbutton my shirt. "You want to tell me how I'm going to get around while naked?"
<<This is the sprawl,>> he said. <<There are at least half a dozen religions who require young women to go around naked. Pretend to be a Nudianist or something.>>
"Great," I said as I stripped. We were both silent for a few seconds and then I asked, "Hey, G, how did you know about their nanotags?"
He didn't answer me and for a moment I thought the connection was lost. Then, he said, <<I designed them.>>
<<They paid a shitload, Stray,>> he said. <<And you don't say no to the Golconda. Please, I'm sorry.>>
I was silent as I stripped, angry that Guillemet had basically engineered my own downfall. "Not your fault," I finally said. "You didn't know they would show up on the job. It would help though if you sent me some new clothes."
<<Can do,>> he said. <<If you can make it to corner of Diom, Navaa, and Siosp, I'll send out one of my drones. With something extra, too.>>
"Thanks, G," I said. I took off my shoes, balanced myself on a girder, and started to run. I pretended I was twelve again, racing against my brother, chasing each other on girder after girder, ignoring the angry shouts of our father. It brought back memories I thought were long forgotten - sliding in the rain, laughing as we tripped each other up, as we fell and gripped the harnessed our mother had carefully made for us.
I finally made it to the corner of Diom, Navaa, and Siosp and found G's drone - a gray spidery thing that gripped the path with six limbs. Its center opened up to reveal a new set of clothes - all black, thanks G - and something else. A very expensive present from Guillemet.
I hurriedly dressed, then slipped Guillemet's present into the back of my pants. I didn't like holding it, but it was a necessity.
"Hello there," a voice said behind me. I turned and there was one of them - the first of the Golconda. If he was here, the others wouldn't be far behind. Perhaps they were already here, waiting in shadows.
I didn't give him a chance to speak again - I turned and ran, making sure my harness gripped girders and rooftops that were high above me. They could follow, but it would be difficult. I felt an adrenaline rush as the wind whipped past my hair and then...
And then I was falling. My lines had been cut, my harness was dead. He had done something, disabled my harness somehow. In the sky without a harness was deadly and I was in the air, in the wind, and then the wind was rushing past in the other direction. I watched the city above me grow smaller and then I slammed into a platform, my leg bearing the brunt of my weight. I could feel the crack in the bone as I screamed.
"Now, now," the first of the Golconda said. "That's no way to treat a guest. And here I was, all ready to let you go when I had what I wanted."
"What..." I winced and said, "What do you want?"
"The information," he said and smiled. "Where did you transfer it to? Where is it now?"
"Will you...will you let me go?" I asked as my hand slowly slid behind my back.
"I promise," the first of the Golconda said. "Cross my heart, hope to die-"
I pulled out Guillemet's present, the needlegun, and fired. The needlegun was an unusual weapon - designed at first to be non-lethal, each of the needles it fired was equipped with an electrical charge that would stun whoever was hit. Weapons dealers soon figured out a design flaw though: the space where the battery that sustained the electric charge was held could be modified and retrofitted to contain other things, specifically tracking systems. The needlegun had become a smartgun, capable of hitting whatever target you wanted. They were strictly controlled, not even given to the skypol anymore.
Guillemet had already programmed the needles in this needlegun it looked like. It curved from the direction I had fired (probably wildly missing anything) and directed itself towards the only target it could find: the first of the Golconda. And then it hit its target square in the eye.
He screamed as the needle penetrated. "You stupid bitch!" he said as he pulled it out. "You think that would kill me? Tear out both my eyes, I will still carve you up, you fucking b-" His voice trailed off as he looked upward and the angry expression on his face turned into fear.
I ignored my own pain and turned my attention to where he was looking. There was a man, a very tall man, standing on one of the platforms. He wore a dark gray suit with one long white line down the center and his face...his face was as white as snow. My pain must have been too much, because I couldn't see any features of his face.
"No," the first of the Golconda said. "No, it can't be you. You're not here." For the first time, he looked afraid. I prepared to fire another needle, but the tall man looked at me and suddenly I found that I couldn't pull the trigger. The tall man turned back to the first of the Golconda. "Can't be you. Can't be," he repeated. "Operations must commence. Operations. Can't be you." The tall man walked forward, closer and closer, as the first of the Golconda fell to his knees. "Can't be. Operations. Commence." He was babbling and crying.
The tall man lifted one arm and I could see if it was abnormally long and it seemed to stretch out as I watched it, twisting and turning in unnatural ways. The tall man reached out with the arm and stuck it down the first of the Golconda's mouth and I could see him squirming, writhing, wanting to get free, but unable to move.
Everything seemed to be still at that moment, as if time itself froze. And then the first of the Golconda collapsed to the ground and the tall man removed his arm. He turned to look at me and I knew then that it wasn't the pain making me see things. He had no face.
And then I remembered. I remembered Father Caulis's mask and his stories. The Slender Man. This was the Slender Man.
He seemed to regard me and then he turned his gaze away from me. He picked up the first of the Golconda's body as if it was nothing, then started to walk away. He stopped, though, and turned back to me and nodded.
And then darkness enveloped me as I passed out.