Chapter 21 cont.
Materialising in her personal Sphere domain Angel’s avatar checked her arsenal of programs, ensuring that she had all her best gear for what she was about to do. Even thinking about attempting a hack against a corporate data-fortress was enough to give most Sphere Runners cold shivers, and Angel was about to try and go in solo. She hoped that Linford’s breach program worked as well as it suggested. The Runner looked at the program’s icon as it rested on the white marble floor of the domain.
When she had eventually beaten the encryption, the small puzzle cube had opened out, unfolding, contorting and expanding until it formed into a beautifully crafted long-sword that was embedded in a large, grey rock. The avatar walked over to the stone-encased blade and grasped the decorative hilt. With a single yank, she pulled it free to an accompanying burst of light. Angel smiled at the attention to detail and the fact that performing such an act made her feel like “The Chosen One”. Holding the sword before her she read the word Excalibur in finely engraved script on the cross-guard and watched as an ornate scabbard formed around the blade. Feeling more confident in what she was about to do, she placed the weapon on her hip and summoned the swirling mist as she altered her appearance to that of someone from the fantasy genre, appearing in black leather boots, breaches, tunic, and a long, hooded cloak coloured forest green. Notions of Orcs and Elves crossed her mind as she looked down at herself. Ready to slay dragons and monsters, Angel walked over to the swirling blue globe that led to the Sphere and concentrated on McKenzie Corporation. The mist within the globe cleared and the pink-haired avatar stepped through.
And onto a vast plain that looked to be made entirely from black glass that stretched out as far as Angel could see. Rivulets of pulsing electric-blue light flowed beneath the polished ground, running towards a central nexus in the middle of the McKenzie domain. In the central hub stood a titanic wall that looked to be composed of solid black steel and was easily fifty-feet in height. The huge wall surrounded a cyclopean tower that stretched up to almost touch the swirling clouds of the star-filled, night sky that encompassed the domain. The tower itself was a smooth rectangle that resembled a huge monolith. It gave Angel the distinct impression that the designer had been trying to compensate for something.
Deciding to get on with business, the avatar followed the coursing electric-blue lights that streamed towards the walls of the McKenzie data-fortress. As she closed the distance she made out two enormous jet-black skinned Demon programs standing guard at either side of a massive metallic gate that granted access to the interior of the fortress. The Demons were dressed in smart suits and stood with their huge arms folded across their chests. As Angel came to a standstill a short distance away, one of the sentinels unfolded its arms and held out a hand in a “stop” gesture.
‘Password?’ Its voice boomed.
Of course, she didn’t have a password and she didn’t think that the two guardians would just stand there while she hacked one, so she decided to see exactly how the Excalibur program fared in a real engagement.
Angel’s hand went to the hilt of the sheathed sword and she pulled the blade free in a single, fluid action. Recognising her intention, the two guardians adopted an aggressive stance and came at her. Before they could get within reach of her, the avatar swung the sword in a single horizontal slash. The blade glowed brilliantly and a wide arc of shimmering white energy launched from the sword and cut a swathe across the approaching Demons. The energy passed through them, cutting them cleanly in two and causing them to explode into fragments and disappear.
The Runner regarded the glowing sword with an expression of surprise and awe. She hadn’t expected a result quite as grand as that and began to realise the full potential of what she was wielding. If Excalibur made such short work of two Demon sentinel programs, what else was it capable of? Standing in front of the gates to the fortress, she decided to find out. Holding the sword aloft, she swung the blade down in a vertical slash, summoning a second wave of shimmering white energy. She watched as it swept towards the gate and impacted, the cut spreading up to cleave the barred entrance cleanly in half. The doors collapsed inwards and exploded into pieces, leaving the fortress entrance wide open.
Powerful as the Excalibur program obviously was, Angel had no doubt that she had just alerted every defensive protocol within the McKenzie mainframe and decided she had best be quick in her task before she wound up face-to-face with a pissed off A.I. She burst forward in a blur and penetrated the fortress.
Rapidly closing the distance to the gargantuan, black mega-structure that towered above her, Angel inverted her grip on Excalibur and brought the blade over her head, lunging forwards and plunging it deep into the mainframe. At the point of impact a great crack appeared and she thrust she her hands into the open wound and closed her eyes as she concentrated on her search. Golden tendrils began to spread from the point where her hands had penetrated the black surface, arcing out like rapidly growing vines in a spider web pattern as she sought the research and development files containing the information she was after. Less than a second passed before the fine pattern of golden light began to swirl and coalesce into a single point, identifying the location of the files she needed. The avatar pulled the file open, intending to swiftly snatch the information and run before she got caught, but instead of documents detailing the extent of the nanotech experiments she was shown a dark, empty void.
A sudden surge of energy repelled the Runner and she was hurled free of the gouge in the mainframe, the burst sending her sailing through the air to land heavily on her back some distance away. She realised with a sinking feeling what she had just encountered and knew there was nothing more she could do here. Her entire arsenal of programs and even the mighty Excalibur would be of no avail against what just cast her out. There was nothing else to do but leave.
Angel got to her feet and went to retrieve the sword that was still stuck in the McKenzie mainframe but froze as she watched the blade get slowly pulled into the black structure as the open crack began to heal itself. She knew that only the A.I. could perform such a feat and realised that it was time to get out of there as she was no longer in a position to face the intelligence’s wrath.
Turning her back on the mainframe, she ran for the edge of the domain as if the very hounds of virtual Hell were chasing her.
Back in Hal’s, Lewis watched with a sense of dread-filled anticipation as the pink-haired girl that Shona had introduced as Angel had started her Run against McKenzie. He fully expected to see her flinch like the unfortunate Kenzo had and wind up face-down on the table while smoke from her cooked frontal lobes curled out of her ears. As much as he dreaded the death of the young girl he was actually more worried about how Shona would react. He had seen what it meant when people had incurred her wrath in the past, and he didn’t relish the thought of being on the receiving end of it. Especially as he got the distinct impression that she had some kind of attachment to the girl.
So, when there was a small crackling sound from the girl’s S-Box accompanied by a wisp of smoke, Lewis tensed and squinted his eyes as he expected the girl to die right in front of him.
Angel’s eyes flew open with a start and she quickly pulled the cable from her head. Lewis let out a loud sigh of relief which elicited a brief glance from Shona and Connor.
‘Fuck!’ exclaimed Angel in frustration as she whacked the tabletop with the palm of her hand. The loud yell drew the attention of a few other patrons that were enjoying drinks at nearby tables. A glare from Connor deflected their curious glances. Shona placed her hand on Angel’s shoulder.
‘What happened?’ she inquired.
The Runner let out a long, slow breath as she calmed herself down. ‘It’s n-no good. The f-files are in an isolated t-terminal. There’s n-no Sphere access.’
Lewis rubbed his head in disbelief. ‘Shit.’
Connor figured out the rest. ‘So in order to get the information you’ve got to access the terminal directly.’
Angel nodded her head as she wiped sweat from her brow. Shona considered this for a moment then turned to Lewis.
‘Whose terminal is that stuff gonna be on?’ she asked.
‘Sinclair’s. He’s the only one that I can think of that would have an isolated system separate from the Sphere.’
‘So to get what you’re after we’re going to have to actually get into the McKenzie building and find that terminal?’ Shona didn’t like the way this job was starting to look.
The ex-corporate adjusted his glasses in a nervous gesture. ‘Yeah, it looks that way.’
Shona’s exclamation was cut off by Connor’s raised hand. ‘Hang on, I think we have company.’ The Ronin was looking towards the stairwell that led up from the bar below.
Unknown to Lewis and the group, five minutes after they had entered Hal’sI, a small team of four McKenzie agents had arrived - having followed the tracer planted on Angel’s coat - and positioned themselves at the bar where they awaited further instructions. It became evident that Lewis wasn’t planning on taking the people he had met to any secret underground location when the agents were informed of a McKenzie Sphere breech.
Seconds after Angel had fled the domain empty-handed, orders came through to the team that Lewis and his companions were to be picked up immediately. The agents prepared themselves and headed up the wrought iron stairs to the bar on the second level.
Lewis, Shona, and Angel all turned to face the direction that Connor was looking and watched as four men came up the stairs and made straight for their table.
Lewis sagged and cursed. ‘Shit!’
The lead agent, a tall, serious looking dark-skinned man with a shaved head stopped at the table. ‘Lewis Carson. You and your companions are to come with us immediately.’ His tone made it clear that it wasn’t a request.
The ex-corporate felt trapped and helpless but was glad that these guys hadn’t just decided to gun him down in public. Before he could reply Connor spoke up.
‘Do you mind? This is a private conversation.’
They locked eyes for a moment before the agent addressed Lewis again. ‘Mr Carson. You and you companions are to come with us. Now.’ He opened his armoured jacket slightly to reveal a holstered flechette pistol. ‘I’m sure we’d both rather avoid a repeat of the incident at Bowman’s.’
Lewis had to agree with the guy. He resigned himself to the fact that he was cornered. Maybe he could talk his way out of it later.
‘Okay, okay,’ he said, much to Shona’s surprise. ‘Just, no more shooting.’
The agent nodded and his men came closer.
Connor just barely managed to hide the tell-tale twitch of his lip as he saw the opportunity the men had given him by closing the distance.
‘Just a second,’ he said amiably as he picked up his drink to take a sip.
The lead agent foolishly folded his arms. ‘Alright. Just-’
He was suddenly cut off as Connor threw the contents of the glass in his face. In the same instant he sent a mental command to his implanted adrenaline boosters and his military-grade reflex augmentations fired through his body like white-hot fire, super-charging his system. The people around him seemed to suddenly slow down, as if immersed in water. Even as the drenched agent began to recoil in surprise at the drink thrown in his face, Connor had slid out of his seat and was up on his feet, his right hand lashing out in a straight punch to the exposed throat of the second agent that had moved closer to the table. The man gagged and began to fall to the floor. Before he had even hit the ground the super-charged Ronin was moving again, spinning with a left handed strike to the carotid artery in the drink-soaked agent’s neck. The blow resulted in an instant knock-out and he also began to fall, less than a second after his companion. It was then that the two remaining agents began to reach for their weapons, hands moving to holstered flechette pistols. They were quick, and obviously augmented, but Connor’s military-grade implants were far superior to anything that corporate security could hope to have. The result was that, even before the pistols were free, the Ronin had grabbed the collapsing body of the dark-skinned agent before he hit the ground and shoved his unconscious form into the two remaining assailants, causing them to stagger as they reeled out of the way. It was enough of an opening for Connor to be upon them, landing a devastating right-handed uppercut under the jaw of the first agent with enough cybernetically enhanced strength to lift the man several feet clear off the ground and sailing over the edge of the second floor wooden railing, where he crashed down onto the tables of the bar area below. The remaining agent was able to draw his gun and bring it to bear on Connor as his companion flew out of sight. He was so completely focused on dealing with the unbelievably fast black-clad whirlwind that he didn’t see the glass that had been launched at him by Shona. It impacted and shattered off his head, causing him to recoil as he pulled the trigger of his pistol. The burst of micro-needles embedding themselves in the wall, close to where Connor had been standing. Seizing the opportunity provided by his sister, the Ronin sprang forwards and leaped into the air, span and landed a kick to the side of the gun-wielding agent’s head. There was a loud crunch and the man went limp.
As Connor landed, he deactivated his boosted reflexes and the raging fire that coursed through him ceased abruptly. The scene around him seemed to speed up until it caught up with real time. The whole incident had taken no more than fifteen seconds.
Shona was used to such occurrences and was on her feet the moment her brother had finished the last agent.
‘Come on!’ she yelled at Lewis and Angel. ‘We have to get out of here. Now!’ She grabbed the pink-haired Runner by the arm and began to pull her from the booth. Angel hastily grabbed her precious S-Box as she was dragged out of her seat.
‘H-hey!’ she protested.
Shona ignored her and pulled her towards the stairs which Connor had already descended. The patrons and staff on the ground floor were beginning to yell in surprised confusion at the man that had fell from the level above and crashed down amongst them. Lewis remained in his seat, frozen in surprise and disbelief of what he had just witnessed.
‘Holy shit,’ he murmured to himself as he stared at the three fallen McKenzie agents.
From the top of the stairs, Shona turned and shouted back at the ex-corporate. ‘Hey! Come on!’ Without waiting to see if he had reacted, the red-haired Fixer dashed down the stairs, still gripping the arm of the protesting Runner.
‘W-wait!’ complained Angel. ‘M-my coat!’ She threw a glance over her shoulder at the grey, skull adorned jacket she had left on the seat.
‘Fuck the coat! Come on!’ barked Shona.
Angel stopped resisting and allowed herself to be dragged down the remainder of the stairs and through the shocked-looking patrons on the ground floor. Back on the second floor, Lewis snapped out of his open-mouthed surprise and practically vaulted out of his seat. He paused a second and grabbed the bags that had been deposited at the side of the table, ignored Angel’s discarded jacket, and quickly ran down the stairs in an effort to catch up with Shona.
‘Hey! Wait up!’ he yelled as he tried to negotiate the stairs while carrying the three abandoned bags.
A matter of minutes after the group had fled the bar, a team of eight well armed and armoured agents burst into Hal’s. The place was deserted, apart from the staff that worked there, as the patrons had anticipated the arrival of some kind of security force following the fight upstairs and didn’t want to be there when the reinforcements arrived. The team of eight ran past the still unconscious agent that lay prone amidst the ruins of a smashed table on the ground floor and dashed upstairs, following the locator blip from the tracer that had been planted on Angel. As the squad thundered up the stairs, ready for a violent confrontation, all they found were two more bodies that were either unconscious or dead and the bald, dark-skinned McKenzie agent that had eventually gotten back to his feet and leaned himself groggily against a nearby table.
The armoured squad slowed when it became obvious that their targets had gotten away. The team leader walked over to the booth that Shona and the others had recently vacated and reached out a gauntleted hand to pick up the abandoned jacket, identifying it as the source of the tracer signal. With a muttered curse he threw it back onto the seat and turned his attention to aiding the groaning men that lay sprawled on the floor nearby.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
Did a count - only 8 "parts" left.
Oct 31, 2012 9:13:07 amby Nonsolum Homepage »
My english teacher will appreciate : I'd never use my english dictionnary more than I met you on these pages !
She was looking like Farrah Fawcett, so you can imagine that I was often lost in full moon, be in dream (not her...Although :-)) My first fairie ? lol
8 parts to go...then approximately 8 days and we will see the book's cover ?
Cheers Alex. CUS