N'buli leapt over the edge of the level, down onto the same as Fassbender. But he landed badly - sprawling forward as his feet slid out from underneath him. A century of civilisation, and he still wasn’t used to slick and polished ground.
By the time N'buli got to his feet, Fassbender was already out the west door. N'buli was wearing his fightsuit and could run as fast as a cheetah, but not in a crowd. There weren’t many people around, but there were enough who could be hurt, so he kept to a normal speed.
He burst out the door and bounded up a few steps onto the street. He stopped for a second, looking for his target.
'There,' he said, spotting Fassbender down the street. He was heading north, towards the waterfront.
N'buli ran down the middle of the street and kicked his suit into gear. Fassbender ran across a large intersection just as traffic started to move, cars quickly reaching speeds that were too fast to cross.
N'buli didn’t stop. As he hit the edge of the intersection, he was pushing 50 kmh. Planting his feet, he used a light pole to push off and leapt clear over four lanes of cars.
It took him three more ridiculous bounds before he got back to normal speed, and he celebrated by slamming into the back of Fassbender as he ran down the road, knocking him to the ground.
N'buli spun around on a heel and closed in on Fassbender as traffic passed on either side. He had a knife, but N'buli casually kicked it out of his hand and back-handed Fassbender viciously across the cheek.
'Hey!' said a man watching from the footpath. 'You can’t do that!'
'Yeah!' shouted another. 'Get off him!'
This was one of those times when N'buli wished he could just flash a badge and everybody would let him get on with things, but LOVE didn’t work like that. He had argued against secrecy at every annual meeting, but nobody ever wanted to mess with the status quo.
He had also taken his mind off the job, and Fassbender somehow got some leverage and shoved him back. N'buli’s legs twisted beneath him and he fell into the path of an oncoming bus.
It was the main street of the city, so the bus wasn’t going very fast, but it was still a giant hunk of moving metal and it hit N'buli hard. While his suit absorbed most of the impact, he was still sent sprawling down the street and clipped his forehead on the bumper of a parked SUV.
He could hear the traffic stop, and he could hear people coming to help him, but N'buli couldn’t do anything. He tried to get to his feet, but his legs went out from underneath him.
He sank back down to the ground and started doing it properly. Basic micro-meditation techniques were part of the Year Three syllabus at LOVE Academy – Transcendental Medication 101.
He drew on his own hidden reserves and pushed the pain off for the time being. There was still a serious possibility of concussion, but that could wait too.
N'buli’s eyes snapped open. He got up and started running again.
His target had two blocks on him by now, and N'buli’s suit was broken, the micro-servos busted by the impact of the bus. All he had was his own speed and N'buli put everything he had into it. Fassbender glanced back, saw him gaining and shrieked like a child. He ran into the last intersection on the street before it ended in the Auckland waterfront and collided with a cyclist, sending the spandex-clad bald man sprawling.
Fassbender recovered quickly and pulled a middle-aged woman out of her car after she stopped to help the cyclist. He started driving off just as N'buli caught up with him. N'buli leapt and grabbed onto the roof of the car with one hand, hauling himself onto the roof as it started to speed off.
Fassbender knew he was there and hit the accelerator, swaying across the three-lane road. He clipped a small Mitsubishi, but kept on going.
Up on the roof, N'buli could do nothing but hang on as the car sped along the waterfront, heading east. The street was wide and there was little traffic for a weekday afternoon. The speed – combined with Fassbender’s deep swerving – meant he could nothing but hang on.
And then Fassbender made the mistake N'buli had been hoping for and pulled off the road into a suburb. The streets were narrower and tighter and he had to slow down. N'buli risked it and let go of his left hand, sliding forward and smashing his fist into the windscreen.
It was another mistake. The windscreen shattered, but that just made the driver swerve even harder and N'buli couldn’t hold on with one hand. He slid off the roof. At least he was ready for the impact this time and he rolled onto the footpath. He was back up on his feet in a second, but it was another error. Nbuli was getting annoyed.
He jumped over fences and ran through back gardens, careful to avoid the more delicate plants and skirting around deep swimming pools. Going past a woodshed, he yanked a small hatchet out of its wall without stopping and vaulted another small hedge.
He had made up the difference and saw the target car pulling away down a side street. He leapt over another fence, cut through another driveway and was on it in seconds.
N'buli screamed an ancient expletive and jumped for it, swinging the hatchet and embedding it in the roof of the vehicle. Fassbender tried to get him off again, but N'buli had a good grip, and had put up with enough of this shit.
Using the handle of the hatchet for grip, he swung his body around and crashed through the passenger-side window. He caught a glimpse of Fassbender’s astonished face, before he kicked him in it.
Fassbender’s head cracked against the side window and N'buli yanked on the handbrake, pulling the steering wheel around. The car slowly slid into a cement wall, the final impact enough for Fassbender, who slumped back in the driver’s seat.
N'buli wasn’t letting him get away with it that easily. He grabbed Fassbender by the lapel of his jacket and hauled him out into the deserted residential street. A house-husband came out to see what all the noise was, but N'buli gave him his best death stare and the man hurried back inside.
'That’s enough of that,' he snarled at Fassbender, slapping him around the cheeks. 'You’re not that hurt.'
Fassbender carefully opened one eye and flinched away when he saw N'buli’s expression. 'Don’t hurt me! I didn’t do nothing! I dunno what this is all about!'
'Don’t give me that shit! You shot my friend in the head! You killed Stevie.'
Fassbender was still more frightened than confused, but only just. 'Who the fuck is Stevie?'
N'buli raised his hand to hit him again, and Fassbender cringed away.
He didn’t hit him. He didn’t need to.
'Look, you were seen leaving your house one minute before two people were shot in the street outside, and then you ran to another country. That sounds a little suspicious.'
'Oh god, those bastards. It’s those wankers at the distribution company. They did this to me. They did it all.'
'What? What bastards?'
'They started sending me all that dodgy porn, but when I tried to cut things off, they said they were coming to get me. They called me. They said there were two guys out front of my house who were going to come and kill me.'
'So you went out there and go them first.'
Fassbender looked genuinely confused. 'What? I didn’t get anybody! I ran out the back door and never looked back. I can’t kill anybody. I've never fired a gun in my life!'
N'buli looked into Fassbender’s eyes. He wasn’t lying. 'Why did you come to New Zealand?'
N'buli’s phone started ringing. It had somehow survived the impacts and was in perfect working order. He took it out of his pocket and answered without a word, while Fassbender kept talking.
'Why not? I had to hide somewhere, man. And Goodfun said he was gonna meet me here after at that movie. Oh Jesus, you’re not one of them are you? You’re not going to kill me, are you?'
'Shut up,' said Nbuli, holding up a finger and talking into his phone. 'No, I’m fine. Get the local authorities off my back, and zero in a containment team on this GPS. I’ve got one for the Island. Minimum security. Take it easy on him, I think he’s just another poor patsy.'
Fassbender was sobbing in the gutter as N'buli hung up, then tapped his chin with his phone. He’d missed something. 'What was that name? Who was meeting you at the movies?'
His captive wiped away a tear and shrugged. N'buli lost it again, but only had to lean forward menacingly, before Fassbender blurted out the name. 'Goodfun! It was the guy from Goodfun Distributors, that bastard.'
Something in the back of N'buli’s head went click.