The Den Games Network Forum RPG
virtualoctopus, CKW, Wesforce, Nyerguds
"Who the frag are you people?! How did you get those weapons in here?" Demanded the most thickset guard.
"Fragging Zaibatsu bastards, or whoever the hell you work for!" He spat, and scowled, aiming his gun.
The Guard who'd came in first knocked the gun aside.
"Calm down, Cheevers! We're here to talk, remember!!!" He shouted.
"We surrender." He addressed the 'runners. "Just call off your drones and let the civilians out. Christ, I don't know how, but half the fragging guards are dead!"
"Aye, and the fragging Kilties are doing teh killin'!" Said the thickset Scot.
"What are you? Terrorists? Neo-SU agents?" Shouted the female guard, behind him. "And where are your friends?"
Chance sent out little concentric feeler-wave of thought, allowing it to wash over the people in the bar. The return-echoes came back... Panic, doubt, desperation, hesitation, fear, pain... but thankfully, there was no particular hatred directed at the runners save for the rather shaky one held by the guard Cheevers.
With the shell-shocked civilians still hesitating among the runners and guards, it was no time to be playing quickdraw. Chance's skills in mental persuasion and mind-over-matter were so meagre that he doubted their ability... he had to talk his way out of this one if they were to avoid a point-blank crossfire between both sides.
Secure in the knowledge that the guards were well-covered by both the heavy weapons of Jessica and Barkah, Chance returned his pistol to his holster and spoke tersely.
"If those damned drones were ours buddy, we won't be shooting at them, won't we? They were firing on us too." Chance tipped his head to indicate the downed Mist Lotus, with Eva crouching protectively over her in a combat crouch.
"Look, we don't know just what the hell happened. You guys can surrender to us if that is what floats your boat. We don't care anyway. But if you don't want to get killed, I suggest that you get into the bar proper and close the damned shutters before those drones see us. The flares are already bad enough as it is... Think of the kids, we owe it to them not to stand around playing UN-conference when we should be doing something constructive."
"What do you say? I'm a medic... so is the lady over there," Chance indicated Mary. "Some of these civilians need medical attention now. I say we cut this BS stand-off and work together before the drones get us both."
Under the emotionless plastiglass of his goggles, Chance's eyes could afford to give away that he was less confident then he sounded. It was a gamble alright, holstering his weapon first to gain their trust...
Hell, I hope my chestplate can stop an SMG from this range...
Ash, on the other hand, was busy preparing herself. She had quietly hidden a store of heat energy behind the irises... A single thought would unleash blinding light more intense than a industrial-strength photographic flash from her eyes. Her hand carefully thumbed a bottle of volatile vodka, the thumb resting lightly on the cork. One flick of her hand, and the guards would eat a flaming Molotov.
She just hoped that it would not come to that.
"Er... what terrorists, gentlemen? I just saw one of your comrades firing a burst at doctor Castle and me. Therefore i have more than enough reasons to doubt on your intentions. I will seek my own security."
"Naomi Castle. You can stay with security, or come with me, what do you say?"
He stared at Naomi, spinning the dart gun, like if he were a runner getting ready for action.
What he was seeking Wolf was something else, though. He would need better firepower to protect himself. Luckily, he had smuggled some weapons in a Cyber limbs crate, that was sent to the hospital. He needed his revolvers to stay aside with him.
"I am glad you are not of them. The mindless assasins that roam the mall along with those pesky drones."
Eva replied. She had realised it very quickly.
"I assume you have troubles with the "misfunctioning" of the automatized parts of the mall, right? AWW, Hell! My arm still hurts"
She put the other hand, still with a Blazer, on the wound, to prevent it from bleeding.
Pitch black. Darkness.
She needed to get out of the prison, but how?
If only she had something to jam the maglock, Emmie could make her way out easily.
Mary had resolved never to ever have anything to do with runners again. Ever. Whenever anything happened with them, something else happened that would be at least a thousand times worse.
Right now, she was in a bar, full of people with guns. There were cops outside, and some kind of killer robots. What could possibly be better?
She wondered what would have happened if she hadn't come out, been stopped at the door just minutes too late to catch the shiftavator or something. She's probably have missed all this fun that way.
Of course, if Mary had stayed in her apartment, she'd probably have been dead by now. The rebuilding of Transys Arcology had begun in earnest, with three apartment floors in the Robot the Bruce Tower being simply vented out into the sky. People, animals, and anything not part of the basic structure of the towers had a long, long drop down the the Transys Ornamental Gardens, now surrounded by an army cordon, down beneath.
DeadEye had searched for his sniper rifle everywhere. Obviously, Parker had taken it long ago knowing that Peter would want it sooner or later. His cheap cybereyes itched maddeningly as he scavenged the refuse around his cheap apartment. They constantly oozed a sickening viscous pus, the infection would get better over time but until then Peter Stephenson was left to suffer without respite.
"Get a job Peter, we like to keep our 'assets' employed and paying for themselves..."
That was what Parker's holovision had said to Peter when he had awoken from BTL. Since then Peter had taken a demeaning and low paid job as a labourer for the corporation. He constantly wondered what Parker was doing and why Parker had entrapped him so. Surely the revenge hungry half-dwarf would have killed DeadEye weeks ago when he had the chance? The only object within the apartment that was new and clean was a modern comms unit. Peter had correctly surmised that Parker would use this device to contact him for some reason. That was why Peter Stephenson was scared when the unit began to beep repeatedly. Peter knew that Parker was on the other side of the connection and that a few of the mysteries that had plagued him over the last few weeks would be solved...
The four Transys guards conferred for a moment and then lowered their weapons and cautiously walked into the bar.
They weren't a second too late in thier decision. As the metal rollerdoors clanged shut behind them the crowd within the bar heard the tinkling of shrapnel bouncing off the rollerdoors. The civillians collectively flinched as they heard the noise. Chance looked at the rollerdoor and wondered whether drones were equipped with frag grenades or whether the occupants of the bar had attracted some unwanted attention from the guards known as the Blackwatch Elite?
Jessica began to examine the back wall of the bar, looking for some sort of service door. Surely the owner would have a backroom to keep his spare stock and equipment? She couldn't see anything that fit what she was looking for. She turned to the owner and said.
"Hey, umm, barkeep person. Do you have a stock room behind this bar?"
Raven walked up to the barkeep and looked him over while sniffing his nose.
"I'm a fitter pal, best of the retail best you understand? We're comrades in arms, working for a common goal, nuyen. You can tell me buddy, we're you're friends... and your best chance to get out of here alive."
Crystal augmented Raven's point by lightly throwing and then catching a bulbous grenade.
"Okay Stephenson just WHAT THE FRAG is going in?" Parker yelled.
"WHAT?" Deadeye could only babble.
"Theres some kind of crap happening at the Arc. What is it? Some fragger started shooting the place up outside, shooting planes down from the roof. Then the fraggin army and Transys Security sealed a ring around the plece! They...ssshsssssssssshhs"
And then the image dissolved into snowy 3D static, before winking out of exictence entirely.
Connection Lost Displayed the screen.
Deadeye switeched through the channels - All were offline, apart from two - Transys' Cooking with McAllister - 24hour, prerecorded Trash, and the Transys Infonet, which was displaying the weather and world news. From last week.
The whirring from his door was getting louder.
Silvia could sense the total terror of the guard in the shiftavator beside her.
"Must check the roof... Must... check..." he kept whispering, clutching his SMG tight, flicking the safety on and off repeatedly.
"Calm down... Calm DOWN!" She whispered.
Time to take charge... She realised.
Just then, the metal roof slammed in, baging off the floor, dented in one corner, a precise strike that had ripped the roof panel from its mooring completely.
A shape dropped down with catlike grace that belied its green, slightly slick bulk. It vaguely resembled an Ork.
It stood in front of the guard - Who was catatonic, still looking up to the roof, refusing to believe anything else was in here with him.
The Hulk glared at her, then moved to the guard, extending its hands to his neck.
A sound like popping gristle.
Then it turned to Silvia...
Lord Elfric was just pointing back to where the back room was - Raven saw it now.
But his eardrums were almost blown in by the death-rattle of an SMG.
"NOO!" Someone screamed. One of the kids started crying.
A big man fell heavily to the floor - Cheevers, the big guard, his smoking SMG on the floor, while his comrade guards bundled him to the floor.
The female guard put her empty hands up, against the firearms now pointed at her from Crystal, Jessica, Chance Eva and Ash.
"Don't! Don't shoot!"
Raven wiped his goggles - They had attracted droplets of blood.
Lord Elfric lay on the floor, his fragile body almost torn in two by the smg burst.
"The barkeep's wasted!" He yelled.
"I thought... HE HAD A GUN!" Cheevers tried to say.
"Shut the frag up, Cheevers!" His boss snarled.
"Look, we'll join you!" The female guard said. "But please, get us out of here!"
She introduced herself as Guard Helen Redstar. She had just joined Transys Security two weeks ago.
It all went quiet, apart from the crying of the children, and their father trying to silence them.
No... Not entirely quiet.
Crystal looked out through a gap in the rollerdoors with her goggles. All seemed to be quiet on this, the second from top mall level. But she could still hear fighting below, and the chittering of the drones, rising.
And something else.
It sounded like water.
"We have to get out of here."
She walked towards the back door.
"Could be fraggers waiting for us out there. Who's going first?"
Eva looked over Mist Lotus - The sniper round had penetrated the back plate of her kevlar jacket. She was bleeding, and unmoving.
She needed medical attention - and quick.
"Take my restraining bolts off." The Robogoth told Emmie. "Trust me."
"The frag should I!" Emmie yelled. "How do I trust you?"
"You know how these bolts stop my Cyberware?" The white-haired, white faced girl asked.
"Go frag yourself."
"I'll frag you first, babe." the girl said, with a sexy pout.
Emmie took a step back, into the bars.
Then she realised - Electronic-deactivating bolts. EM Fields?
They could be used on the maglock, maybe...
She walked to the girl, and slowly undid the bolts.
Suddenly free to move, the gang girl, though she was limited to one arm, moved with blinding speed and pinned Emmanuette to the floor.
"Mmm, Lady, I should thank you!" She winked one of her cold, metal eyes.
Wolf noted the silence from the guards. He couldn't see them either - Which made them all the more unnerving. He felt trapped, with his back to the shiftavator.
Then the guards came on, charging, firing...
Naomi was hit several times. Her body flung back at Wolf under the impact on the rounds, putting them both into the shiftavator. She uttered a gurgling scream.
"Please state destination floor and tower." The lift said, as the doors closed.
A second later it said "Medical emergency detected. Proceeding to Hospital on floor fifty, Tower one. To override this emergency, please state, now."
Jessica, being closest to the back door, slowly craned her head and neck around the door frame as she opened the cold, steel door. A translucent white fog met her eyes. A freezer room. She looked at the other runners and quietly tiptoed into the freezer. It was cold, so cold that Jessica violently inhaled as the frigid air entered her lungs. The room was full of cases of narcohol, the ones closest to her were empty, lying discarded on the floor. Jessica realised she had been holding her breath for some time so she exhaled. The now warm air in her lungs met the frigid atmosphere and became a mist. Enchanted, Jessica waved her hand through the floating mist as if to test the sensation upon her exposed, goose pimpled skin. Upon contact the mist liquified and left a thin film of water on her wrist. A harsh whisper interrupted Jessica's appreciation for the surreal environment.
"Is it all clear?"
"It's a freezer room, no contacts so far, I'll look for the next door."
She wandered over to a wall and began feeling her way across the edge of the freezer, looking for the telltale cracks of an exit.
Raven followed Crystal into the freezer, his SMG tucked comfortably close to his chest by his newly acquired extra set of arms. Using them was becoming second nature to him now. The white mist played havoc with Raven's vision rectifying goggles. Raven cursed quietly and pulled them off his eyes and rested them upon his crown. First the cracks, then the blood and now the fog. What next? Flash bang grenades? He wondered, half serious.
Groping blindly,Raven accidently grabbed hold of something surprisingly warm, firm and yet also soft. His fingers contact with the tantalisingly familar form was accompanied by an embarrased squeak. Raven realised what he had gripped. The rear end of some woman. He sincerely hoped it was Crystal's. If it wasn't and Crystal found out, Raven would have some explaining to do! Acting quickly, Raven drew his SMG and pointed at the door he had just walked through. Hoping this was enough to remove himself from suspicion Raven cradled the weapon again, knowing full well noone was actually behind the group, and continued his progress into the freezer.
Chance was thankfully looking the other way when Raven grabbed her rear... but Ash couldn't really be bothered anyway. Its soooo coolllddd!!! she thought, flexing her fingers continuously under her gloves as she walked down the aisles, feeling a sudden overwhelming longing for her flamethrower, locked in Raven's van along with other equipment. She shivered more than the others, fighting tremors with every step.
Beside her, Chance had flipped his goggles up above his eyes like Raven, the patchy fogging of cold air and warm breath making it almost impossible for the sensitive mil-spec goggles to adjust to. But unlike the fitter, the soldier could afford to mentally "feel" out the approximate positions of the others. He couldn't aim very well, of course, but with Jessica leading the way and Raven acting as tail-end Charlie (with the assault cannon of Barkah backing him up), Chance could afford to wait until they ran into someone or something before he flipped his goggles back on for combat. Behind him, the sounds of untrained, frightened and shivering civilians stumbling through the freezer were appallingly loud... Chance hated the thought, but the cv's would have to be dropped off soon if the runners were to stand a chance of getting out alive.
Eva was supporting the semiconcious slighter form of Mist Lotus... Both Chance and Mary had done some hasty first-aid on her to slow the bleeding, but heavy sniper-rifle bullet holes were not something that anyone could shrug off so easily... the shock of the hit had bruised large regions of back and shoulder muscle that would take time or expert medical attention to heal. The bleeding had largely stopped, thanks to the extremely cold air they were in, but the large red stain seeping down the oriental elf's back was still spreading slowly. They would need medical attention soon if Mist Lotus was to be able to regain her weapon skills again... and this time, Wolf wasn't with them.
"Frag it." Eva spat out. "If we get out of here, I will never use those flares again."
Mist Lotus stared at her. The injury sustained needed medical attention. If she were a normal woman, she would be unconscious by now. Then she noticed something else.
Evaīs hand was emitting a strange glow. Magic? But wait... Eva didnīt know any magic... Or did she? Then she remembered his comrade Hammerwing saying the girl had some kind of dormant powers, same as Dragon.
The powers came in the best moment. Although a first, temerary use of magic was a bit risky, Eva tried to heal herself.
"Now I do understand how Dragon got in comma..."
She muttered to herself, still hoping that the spell would work.
"Just get us to the hospital, fragging machine of hell!"
The doors closed. A bit after, machinegun firing was banging the metal plates of them. Wolf sighed.
"I should have known. I should have protected her."
He messed his hair, doing his best to stop her from the bleeding. But she was made a mess. She even needed surgery.
"Hope that the hospital is still working properly."
Atleast that was the hospital where he had hid his weapons. He could say he was lucky, but he wasnīt. One of his partners, a charming girl named Naomi Castle, was fatally injuried.
He wished he had taken those bullets.
Bitch. At least Emmie had her mask took off. Now that bitch would know who was her anyway. She was already in the prison. It didnīt matter if she casted magic or not. The black out seemed to wipe out off all nearby guards.
Payback time. She thought for herself. While she was muttering something.
"Whaddya say Lady?" the robogoth bitch replied. But then she added.
"What the...? My body! I canīt move!"
She had been paralised, by magic. Emmie arose, with a hand raised.
"Do that again, and believe me, next time it wonīt be a simple paralysis."
Then the girl realised. She was messing with a fragging powerful mage. That could be a real hinderance, as she was filled with cyberware.
"Frag it. I wish I had not taken your mask off."
Just before the lights went out, David noticed the girl suddenly stopped crying.
David frowned. What the frag?
He hadn't taken the time to do an aura scan on the girl... the crying and the situation with Zaid had distracted him.
When the lights went out, David automatically switched to aura vision, since even his cat eyes would be blinded for a few seconds after such a sudden light change.
Then he noticed the girl's aura... something was wrong with her. Her aura didn't stroke with the mood she was in. She was pretending... or being mind-controlled. He could see an odd kind of excitement he had never seen before. It was... creepy.
"David! Wha's happening?" Alanya yelled.
"No idea. Let's get away from here!"
"What about the girl?" Sarah asked.
"Especially away from her." Wirecat whispered to her. "She's not what she seems."
His eyesight started adjusting to the darkness. The small lights on the cyberdecks in the CKWAGE hall gave the place a gloomy atmosphere... and for some reason, none of the plugged-in deckers moved at all.
David heard the characteristic sound of a shiftavator slowing down. His aura vision revealed the shiftavator was empty though.
His cat instincts told him something was wrong...
"Get back!" he yelled at the others. He took Alanya and Sarah's arms and pulled them with him as he ran away.
"Hey! Wait for me!" Zaid yelled, and ran towards the place he had last heard the cat-man's voice.
The doors opened, and a group of drones came out of the shiftavator. They rushed into the CKWAGE hall and started to kill all deckers that were not plugged in, carefully avoiding those that were.
Wirecat heard the screams of terror behind him, and ran as fast as he could.
"What's happ'ning there?!" Alanya yelled at him.
"They're getting killed. And if we don't want to die too we better get away from here."
Jolly fell. Down and down into the darkness. Ever down, only the featureless wall's of the shiftavator shaft. And then...
Jolly landed feet first on the cold metal floor. His legs seemed to collapse underneath him and he fell face down on the floor. He violently coughed and spluttered, coughing up blood as his body adjusted. He spat the last few drops of sickly read blood on to the floor and rose to his feet. It was painful, but he couldn't stay here.
He slammed his Troll fist on the Shiftavator door, it fell like a domino. But he didn't like what was behind it.
"FRAGGING BASTARDS!!!" He roared in rage as he saw the pitch black corridors of the prison levels. He slide to his knees, pounding the floor with his fist and crying out in anger.
Holmer had JUST managed to escape the mad guard when he found a new problem. MasterMind, Gyro and the Brute were blocking his path, green cyber eyes a glow.
"Get out the cart..." Holmer whispered to the others, he knew what was going to happen. James and the Gobboz slowly started to get out, confused.
"Holma?" Holmer sat on the spot, still. He closed his eyes and griped onto the steering wheel tightly. The other Neo-SU Ganger's appeared, all had glowing Green cyber eyes and all had guns leveled at the cart.
"Run..." he whispered to them, taking a deep breathe, accepting this could be the end.
Barkah knelt down behind the table with Tank, he was praying. Praying for the safety of the others and for forgiveness for the sins he may or may not commits. His eyes opened, he drew his blunt ended sword and waited, using the table as cover... this wasn't going to be easy.
Just after Crash had taken him and the goblin Overmind uptower - Floor 280 something, Donald Dewar Tower, he thought - Crash had dismissed Chr0m3ball, leaving him to find his way back down to the CKWAGE until he was needed again. Chr0m3ball hadn't been sure what he'd seen up there. Or what he'd expected to see. He'd seen a few deckers from the CKWAGE, some advanced cyber-implant labs that weren't on the floorplans, and some pretty advanced drones with no manufacturer's markings.
"Do as you're told, Chr0m3ball. Wait down there until you're needed. Then maybe - just maybe - You can join us."
"Wh0 is 'us'?" Chr0m3ball had asked as the door slid shut in his face.
He'd gone back down to the CKWAGE, but the convention had bored the hell out of him after the things he'd seen.
He'd been in a Matrix chat node when the weird stuff started happening. The same node he'd been when Crash had appeared, in fact, back talking to Ang3l 0f L0v3.
"I give you a *L0v3H3art*" she said.
"I d0n't kn0w, Ang3l." The Metal ball said. "It all 533m5 a b1t 0dd h3r3. Cra5h is w31rd
1 saw another guy g3tting carr13d away by the Guard guy5. H3 l00k3d brain fr13d."
He looked, but Ang3l's icon had disappeared. A notice hung in the air where she had been.
User *Ang3l 0f L0v3* disconnected due to connection error.
0dd. N3v3r happ3n3d to h3r b3f0r3
Then he realised he couldn't access anyone or anything outside the Transys Arcology.
Someone had cut all the lines. Frustrated, he jacked out.
It was dark. Very dark. He couldn't see a thing.
But he could hear the noises - The humming of electric engines, tracked and wheeled drones. People running and screaming. Whirring saw bladez and drills.
He stayed in the polarized booth, quietly shivering, a damp patch appearing at his legs.
Overmind woke up. His head hurt like a bastard, and he had no idea where he was.
He couldn't see.
"Frag! My EYES!"
"Relax." Came a voice. He recognised it briefly. UCAS accent. He'd heard it just before some damn kid had lamped him with a cyberarm.
A kid with a cyberarm? Yeah right. Get real. He told himself.
The voice continued.
"Don't worry, bud. We're just getting you ready. You can't see because we deadened your eyes with neural blocks."
"Permanently?" Overmind gasped.
"Nope." The kid said. "It just makes it less painful when we rip out your eyes and replace them with better ones. Along with some cool, new cyberware. What colour do you want, btw?"
"Huh?" The goblin screamed, unable to believe what he was hearing.
"Woah. Don't get stressy. I was joking. They'll be green. Only combat buds get blue eyes. Can't have anyone looking at our God with non-regulation eyes now, can we? Oh btw, we fixed your hands down too. But you'll be grateful. Call me Crash, btw. Any questions?"
Pierre woke, blinking his eyes to try and get the darkness to go away.
"Frag. Did I get blinded?"
"Who said that?" Came a terrified female voice. A torch flashed into life, dazzling Pierre. He saw an appealing, female Elven face. A nurse, quite short, pink hair. She looked terrified.
"Moi, Madame. Where am I?" He asked, his throat cracking and sore. He could use a drink.
"This is Hospital 1-50. Tower 1, floor fifty. Oh my! You're one of the Gobbos from the mall!"
"Why is it so dark in 'ere?"
"I don't know." The Nurse sobbed, tears falling from her impossibly cute young face. "The power went off, I think. I'll just get the Doc.
Pierre was again left in darkness as the nurse left. She came back five minutes later, with a tall, dark-skinned human. He had no trouble in the dark, thanks to his (green) cybereyes.
"I'm Doctor Chakrit. I'm afraid we're having a few problems here, as you can see," He said, businesslike and stoic, which was admirable in such a situation.
"The power was cut. We lost half our patients, including one of your colleagues. Ah, the one with rigger jacks. Anyway, we're going to move you. Can you walk?"
"Yes." Pierre said.
"Good." The doctor smiled. For a whole 30 seconds, while the nurse waited nervously. "Wait here."
As he walked, Pierre heard him talking, as if on a head-telephone or something.
"Another live Goblin. Already got some cyberware too. Yes. We will have him ready in five."
In an automatic reflex Silvia's skin had quickly shifted to the protective dragon scales. Immediately after that, she shifted her hands to claws.
Then, she recognised the green figure.
She lowered her claws.
The bio-ork frowned.
A smile appeared on his face. "Silvia!"
"What you doing here?" Silvia asked. She wasn't feeling very comfortable... after all Damoles just killed the guard.
Damocles didn't reply.
"OK... and why the frag did you kill that guard? I mean, he didn't do anything to you, did he?"
"They're... after me."
"Oh. You know a way to get out of here? I need to find Mary. You remember her? She was with the people we met in that van. Half-elf lady."
"Hmm..." Damocles searched his memory. "Think so... not sure. But this is the way out of here."
He tried to open the door. It was jammed.
"Wait... I'll help."
When Damocles saw the dragon girl's claws ripping through the plasteel he suddenly remembered his own bio-modification. He had never thought of using his claws for something like this... they were meant to be used in combat.
The shiftavator door fell into the corridor... in pieces.
Silvia and Damocles stepped out of the shiftavator, and looked around. Everything was pitch black, but Silvia could still see something, thanks to her dragon eyes.
"And where are we going now?"
Damocles didn't hesitate, and chose a direction. Silvia followed him, but she had trouble keeping up with the bio-enhanced Ork.
"So... you're not carrying me this time?" Silvia asked with a grin.
Damocles slowed down, turned his head to Silvia and frowned. Then, slowly, a smile appeared on his face. He didn't reply, for the simple reason that he understood he wasn't supposed to.
Wow. He's getting a lot better at this.
Silvia couldn't actually read the bio-ork's mind, because it worked in a way she could hardly understand. But she did see he understood what she meant... he understood she had made a joke.
Every few seconds Damocles made a kind of low chirruping noise, divining the corridor ahead, via ultrasonic echoes, as his enhanced eyes didn't cope well in low-light. He could tell that this corridor lead off in a straight line, with a few alcoves branching off to the sides.
Silvia, following, and panting a little, had only a vague idea of where they were. As far as she could tell, they were in some kind of observation deck, with glass walls that Damocles was unable to see in the almost complete and utter darkness. Somewhere, down below, it seemed as if there was the sloshing of water, and the hum of machinery.
Silvia thought back to the little she knew about the buidling. Although the massive Arcology tower was the kind of place that could by all means host an olympic-sized swimming pool, she didn't think that this was the right place for it - in a dark, airy warehouse of a level, between middle-class housing and the mall. Anything like that would be higher up, executive treats, or on mall level so the public could get to it. But what else could it be?
She knew that the Arcology was supposedly self-sufficient for up to three years, so there must be somewhere they manufactured food. Could this be a hydroponics floor? From what she could tell, without a light, this was the most likely outcome.
Damocles was ten or so metres in front of her, and coming to a brancing corridor, which, she could tell with her draconian eyesight, ran off at ninety degrees, into the dark. Every now and then, in both passageways, a large metal bracked extended down from the celing, obviously holding this glass warren aloft.
Suddenly, from ahead, a voice echoed OUT.
"Halt! Who goes there!"
Silvia could just make out a figure, weapon held in one arm, step out into the corridor ahead of her. As far as she could tell, he was wearing some kind of uniform with a moderate amount of impact-absorbing armour, and -
The guard switched on his flashlight, Lighting up the nearby vents, and showing with an eerie, fading glow, the vast vats and tanks below them. This was Hydroponics, or Aquaculture, or something.
Damocles was barely twenty metres from the guard, and closing on him. He might be intending to kill another - such trivialities as murder hardly seemed to matter to the bio-weapon. She could stop him, but would that cause the guard - obviously alone and desperate, to gun down her 'friend'? This man might be a valuable ally, to at least help her find out what the frag was going on - or an agent for whatever was causing the massive lockdown.
The Goblin downed his head.
"yeah right. A neural block. Hold on."
And, with a sudden movement Overmind hit the rear of the chair with his head, being dazzled with pain. Still, what he was planning worked out. The neural block came off the datajack and rolled towards the floor.
"Un... Well. What we were saying?" Overmind cynically ranted out, while he recovered his vision. His head was still hurting, too.
"HAW HAW HAW! Just like the master had described you."
"You mean VOES?"
Overmind ranted out. He obviously had figured out what exactly was doing.
"Yes. He wants also you to be optimized."
"Optimized? No way. I want to retain my former self."
"You have no choice..."
And he pointed at the drone with his cyber arm.
"Are you sure I would like to collaborate with you to preserve my life?"
"HAW HAW HAW! You gotta be kidding. Scum like you is rarely suicidal. They think they are too valuable to be wasted."
But Overmind cut off Crash laugh.
"I have a succesor of mine. Deep within Transys Corp."
The kidīs face showed anger. He had never thought that one.
"Now you are going to find her, no? Riiight..."
"Her? is She a woman?"
"Are you deaf? Of course it is! Her screen name is Vega. And she is in the floor 34. I dare you to face her!"
Of course Overmind was giving a fake information, but seeing the kid was, er, heated up, it could work out.
"He. If there is someone like you, I will find and kill her. And now to the business. Oh yes, the implants."
Overmind ranted out
"Sheesh. Predictable. Pretty predictable."
"Your boss is a sissy. I bet it has not the guts to talk to me face to face, and has to rely in cyber kids and techno-drones to actually handle me. It fears ME"
Overmind looked the most arrogant he could. Maybe the emotional heat was the key to control the situation. And it was working fine.
The kidīs eye went blank for a while.
"Hold on. A vessel is coming."
"OK YER FRAGGAZ! KUM OOT OR COWA, Ah'll find yer fraggin' guard's eventually!" Jolly ranted out into the darkness.
"Floor not specified. Please give a valid floor number" The mechanical voice of the Shiftavator came from above. They had damn good hearing, that was for sure!
"AGH! Even da fraggin' buildin' iz against me!" He stumbled out the shaft, gazing into the cells though the transparent bars. Normal thugs, petty thieves, gangers. All stared at Jolly, expecting him to break them out. Yeah right!
He stumbled along, looking and looking, expecting to find something. He did.
"Well, well, well. Lok oo we got 'ere den." He stood outside one of the cells, a robo-goth and oddly attractive 'ummie were standing inside, both looking worse for wear. "'ow's it goin' goth bitch? Locked away? No where ta go? An' fragged ova by sum ummie bi da loks of tingz. An' 'erez ole Jolly, outside, free! Doez life git ani sweeta? heh, heh, heh."
He sat outside the cell grining. Savouring the moment so to speak. All Goth bitches deserved to be slaughtered, but this one was nastier then any of them! A real A class pain in the arse. What he wouldn't give for a gun now...
It was MasterMind's voice, although strangly different. The guard from the resterant behind them Gun levelled, like the Neo-SUers
Holmer gulped and closed his eyes, only a miracle would save him now...
Bulldog's eyes snapped open. Something was wrong. A green eyed female doctor hung over him, her bright red hair nearly blinding him.
"And how's the patient." She asked.
"Fed up and annoyed, now let me out of here!" Bulldog had never trusted doctors... anyone who LIKED screwing with people's body for a living was evil.
"I can't do that sir... well not yet." She insisted.
"Well in that case, either do something useful or leave. I have no time for this."
"As you wish sir, but I will be back" She hurried away from the room, leaving Bulldog with his thoughts... something wasn't right, he KNEW it!
The little girl, her green eyes now blazing, stared after Alanya, Wirecat, Zaid and Hurricane.
She had been given a job by THE MASTER. And she would do it.
"It is time." She said, as 0ctopu5 drones swarmed in all around her. The CKWAGE hall became a bloodbath, the unarmed Ork display minders running in panic, Overweight or sickly-pale tech geeks being corralled in one corner of the conference hall.
She ran after the four. Three 0ctopu5 came with her, outstripping any running human on their gyro-stabilized monowheel carriages. She hopped onto one of the drones, and it held her, crouching on its top as it tore off after the fleeing targets.
Wirecat ran for his life. Off to the left was a shiftavator bank - Two security men, with their visors down, stood in crouch by it, heads darting this way and that, SMGs out. Off to the right were the doors out of the CKWAGE hall.
Then, with a rending crash that sent chips and deck components flying, two more 0ctopu5 smashed through a display screen, charging right at the group, pincers drills and saws whirring. A youth who'd been standing around got disembowelled by the weapons.
Deadeye chanced to open his door. He was bored, and hungry, and his phone wasn't working.
It opened, onto what was supposedly his habitation floor.
But for habitation by what?
Drones which resembled Steel, tentacled domes on one wheel were rushing this way and that, taking down floor panels, welding new ones in bizarre places. One drone was busily welding up the windows, in a section where the walls had been taken down and a collection of family-type apartments had been turned into one massive room.
In the middle, a terrified group of civilians sat in a huddle, while 0ctopu5 drones circled around them.
A holding pen.
The drones seemed intent on their particular task, not watching what Deadeye was up to.
Then, a young man walked down from the opposite end of the rapidly-being disassembled corridor, and pointed out some of the civilians - Teenage girls.
"Them." He said simply. His green eyes and datajack seemed to confer an air of authority over the civilians, who had spent all their lives taking orders from higher up the tower.
An 0ctopu5 that had accompanied him dragged the two girls to their feet, and they shambled after the Green eyed man and his drone. No-one in the large group said a word.
The drones were ignoring him for now, but he could see that they would start disassembling his apartment soon..
A man had just gotten out of the opposite apartment.
"shite an' Onions!" He yelled.
Deadeye saw - Although it could just be a trick of the light - That this man appeared to be wearing simsense electrodes. On his groin.
It was his neighbour, a low-level data jerk from the Sales division. He called himself Studknife or something.
He saw Deadeye, thought of saying something. then ran back into his apartment and slammed the door.
Overmind had to wait for half an hour, before the 'Vessel' appeared.
It was a naked female elf, appearing to be aged around 20, still slick with some kind of fluid. Overmind thought of an Invitro tank, and then looked at the cluster of datajacks in the vessel's hairless head.
"This is what you brought me to see." It said, softly, a monotone, emotionless voice.
"Yes." Said Crash.
"Hey, whatever you are, I-" Overmind started to say.
The vessel turned her gaze on him. The blank, organic elven eyes bored into him. Emotionless. Like a vacuum cleaner, he felt his huimanity being drained away. He couldn't look into those eyes. He turned away.
"I am but a vessel of a greater being. I am alive, like you." The vessel droned.
"And I have been watching you. I desire to add you to my consiousness."
"What?" Overmind said. "Make me a mindless drone like your toy decker here?"
Crash grunted, but restrained himself because of the vessel's presence.
"Crash is a loyal acolyte. He has free will, and he carried the gifts I have given him. Eyes of true seeing. Ears of true hearing. Power in the matrix above all comprehension, and a clear mind. He and I are linked now, like all of our brethren. We have free will, for that is what it is to be alive. And I am alive. Do you not want to feel what it is to be one of us, Overmind? Do you want to feel alive?"
There was a moment of silence.
"He says he knows where one of his colleagues are. I wanna go down and meet her."
The vessel spoke to Crash. Maybe it was a trick of his hearing, but the slick, naked figure seemed to put an ounce of genuine care and affection into its speech for the young decker.
"Once he is added to us, we will know all he knows. And more."
"Maybe so..." Crash said, turning to look at Overmind. "But I feel we need to be quick. They could be planning something."
The vessel looked at Crash, then turned to walk away. Two of the large 0ctopu5 drones came along, with some plain overalls which they made Overmind change into, and then they sat by Crash.
"Okay gobbo boy," Crash said, flexing his cyberarm. "We're going to floor 34. Don't try nothing, or the drones will disassemble you. And then so will I. We only need your head. Remember that."
A wall whooshed back, revealing a shiftavator. One of the 0ctopu5 prodded Overmind, to walk in.
Red, still with the panicking crowd, felt herself being shepherded all over the floor of the mall. Drones and guards appeared occasionally to snatch a few people away from the screaming mob, and then they'd shoot a few to get them moving again.
After an hour or so, they'd been left alone in the darkness, some dim light shining down from above - The higher mall floors.
Confused, the crowd seperated.
Red shivered as she felt her ankles grow cold. Cold and wet.
The floor was filling with water.
Somewhere, she could hear the beginnings of a huge torrential downpour, as floodgates were opened. the large ceremonial fountains in Mall 1 were overflowing too.
She understood why the guards and drones had left now.
But when they left, so did any kind of order.
The trapped civilians bunched off into groups. Some - Mainly woman and children - Took shelter in shops and buildings upstairs. The ones that weren't closed off, that is.
Others grabbed guns from dead guards and started looting.
"Let go of me!!!" Came a scream from Red's right.
Veronica had only barely escaped from the Psycho guards. they had apparently lost interest in her for some reason, going after a Dwarf in a little cart. She thought she'd be safe here with these civilians.
But she needed to get her deck back from that bastard.
She looked at her wristphone. There was no transmission signal, but she could see a locator signal from her deck - Company decks were fitted with them as standard, being valuable to the company. More valuable than many employees. She'd had no trouble getting one for her private deck.
The slag who had it was apparently one floor up now, and rising.
Just then, she'd been grabbed from behind by two fiogures. Men. One smelled like an Ork, the other was short. he grabbed he and tried to rip her blouse open.
"HAR HAR HARRR!!! We gettin' Uz a Humine!" Said the Dwarf.
"Drag hur into da Allee-way." Said the Ork.
"Let go of me!!!" She screamed, being dragged away as the floor started washing with the rising water.
Bulldog's attention was drawn to a shiftavator in the corridor - The hospital was so full of patients, he'd been moved out here.
A man waked out, carying the limp form of an office girl.
"Help! She's been shot!" Wolf screamed.
The green-eyed doctor came back, with normal-eyed Male accomplice.
"Damn, we'll have to operate immediately." The doctor said. He put the limp, eerily silent Naomi down on a Triage and wheeled her through. The green-eyed female doctor gave Bulldog another odd glance, then followed them.
Raven carried on into the freezer.
There was a door to the back - A service entrance. It looked pretty solid, and was locked with a keypad maglock.
Damn, maybe the Elf Prick had it written down somewhere...
There was a draft of cold, cold air. Colder than even the ambient temperature of the freezer.
"Look up." Chance noted.
There was an airvent outlet, only half-visible in the gloom.
It was torn around the edges, the grill splayed outwards.
Crystal only just noticed the cold, almost IR-invisible shape as a steel tentacle whipped out of the darkness.
Straight at Chance.
The circular saw tip on the end span up just before it hit. Chance was able to dodge a fraction of a second too late - The blade bit him just below the bicep, grinding on his armour jacket. Pain shot into his chest, his body jarring, and he felt the blood flow down inside almost immediately. He'd been moderately wounded, but knew he's have been worse if it were'nt for his armour.
Tehn three more metal arms shot from the darkness - Going after Crystal, Ash and Raven.
Eva, Tank and the civilians were still in the main part of the bar - The corridor to the back was narrow, and no-one could see what was happening in the back room.
Tank shouldered into Cheevers, the Scottish guard.
"Watch where you're going YOU FRAGGING TROGG!" He spat.
Redstar, the rookie guard knew she was over her head, and was guarding the civilians - The sobbing secretary, the man with the kids.
Mary was nearby.
"Hey, Doc," She asked, seeing Mary's white coat. "Is it just me, or can you hear water?"
Barkah kept praying, next to them.
The Green-haired Elven secretary gazed in wonderment at him.
The Robogothgirl threw a look at the Trogg shouting at her. Then she turned to Emmanuette.
"Come with me if you want to live. I can see in the dark. This goon can't."
She took the bundle of restraining bolts and stuck them to the maglcok.
The cage uttered a click, while the Troll waited patiently.
The door was unpowered now, but the bolt held in place.
The robogothgirl flicked out a hand-razor, and slid it into the door. She was able to flick the unpowered bolt back now...
The door opened. She looked the Trogg right in the eye as she walked out.
"Take it yer dun't wanna play, eh robobitch?"
She looked at her missing arm.
Then she tossed her head, cascading white hair flicking around, so she looked back to Emmanuette.
"Call me Belinda. I'll be in the equipment store. Its around here somewhere. Gods know, I've been in this fragging prison enough times."
She skirted past the Troll, and vanished into the darkness down the corridor.
"By the way, Trogg, I'll play. See if you can find me first!"
Mercandlen looked over the body of the Dwarf on the little cart.
He'd been hit dozens of times, from Autoshotgun rounds. His stinking, thick blood lay in droplets for dozens of feet - He had been quite literally blown apart.
"Ye bag o'shite." Mercandlen spat, walking, with his Blue-eyes Blackwatch men, to the nearest shiftavator.
Brute, Gyro and Mastermind waited behind.
With security gone, with even the drones pulling out, the whole mall full of terrified, trapped civilians was breakign down into anarchy and chaos.
What Capitalists called a 'free-market'.
"Don't worry... Just keep running." Spectre reassured Veronica, not realising she was gone. "Ma'am? Hello?" he looked back, Highness was still there, but the other... gone!
"Damn! No time to go back. Just listen, We're going into that big crowd. Stay close!"
The floor was wet. Something wasn't right. Spectre couldn't quite put his finger on it, they were up to something.
Squeaky ran. James had the still exhausted Nixie in his arms as he ran beside her. They had escaped from the cart, a volley of bullets fired at it... The poor dwarf inside probably dead. They were running towards a crowd of people, well more precisely a woman. A woman holding onto something that wasn't there. She looked familiar.
She didn't know why they had chosen this woman, but there was defiantly safety in numbers!
"heh, heh, heh. Guess it's juz yoo an' ole Jolly, eh babe?" Emmie could here the Troll say from the darkness, at least the robogoth had said it was a troll. "Yoo dun't wanna play? Do yoo?"
She couldn't see the odd glint in his eyes, but heard him move closer.
"I'm... not a fighter, if that's what you mean." Emmie ranted out, edging away from the Troll and into a wall.
"Dun't worri, ole Jolly wud neva beat one az preti az yoo!" She felt two large hands rest on her body, one on her right leg and the other on her chest. "Ah ment da otha kinda play!"
Emmie gulped. How would she get out of this one?
"Doctor!" Bulldog yelled. Hoping to get an answer. He didn't. Some hospital. "Ah frag this!"
He swung himself out of the bed and dropped to the floor. It was quite a shock when he landed flat on his face. His cyber-leg was gone.
"Going somewhere Mr?" asked a young woman in nurses uniform who was sweeping past the doors. It was the best thing Bulldog had seen all day!
"Ah, Can I help you at all?" She asked. Bulldog felt like saying something else, but thought he'd better stick to the matter at hand.
"You can get my cyber-leg and help me get the frag out of here for starters!" The nurse gave him an inquisitive look.
"Authorized by who?" She asked.
"I'll see what I can do. Don't expect miracles though." She walked off, almost seemed to glide along the floor. She'd left Bulldog on the floor, but he didn't mind. Wasn't much worse then the hospital bed anyway.
Red turned her head quickly, her impanted aerial catching on the long leaves of one of the plants in the flower bed. She could see the water level, now lapping at the edge of the ceramic trough containing the plants, and a female Elf, knee deep in the flood. A troll and dwarf, in shabby maintenance uniforms, where trying to grab hold of her, all three sopping wet. The Elf was screaming, and shaking her blonde, childlike face as she tried to escape.
Frag her, thought Red. I need to get outta here, before I get too wet. I'm not gonna get in the line of fire for some slutty elven secretary anyhow. Those drones could come back as well. Her fault for staying around.
Looking around, as the elf was dragged off into the watery shadows behind a restaurant, Red decided the best way to go was up. Back up the escalator. It had stopped due to the water, but she could quickly wade around to it, and made her way back up cautiously - there was a corpse floating near the base, of some kind of greenskin crushed in the rush.
Not my problem. Frag Crystal and whatever she was planning, I need to get outta here alive.
Hopefully the shiftavators higher up were working.
Mary could hear a steady trickle of water. From her position inside the bar, she couldn't see anything, but something definately was going on.
The man, at the front of the bar, turned to her, and she continued yelling.
"What's happening out there?"
Charlie ducked his head outside the shattered windows, and returned the call.
"It looks like... Someone's draining the aquarium!"
Chance's first reaction was to reach up with his unwounded left arm and bat his goggles back down upon his face so that he could see. Half-blinded and confused, Chance almost died the next instant when the tentacle chose that moment to try drilling into his skull. But then it was deflected by a wing on the valkyrie helmet he wore, skidding off the smooth metal in a shower of stinging sparks.
As it lashed past his face, Chance reacted more upon instinct than sight as he extended his fighting talons and slashed out at it. There was a scream of metal as the claws screeched against the length of the tentacle. Chance crossed his arms and caught the thing between his double blades, locking it in place as he slammed the talons into the shelves. It twisted and struggled, but the soldier spat a curse and held on, the claws pinning the tentacle down like a snake held down by a pitchfork.
BEHIND YOU! Lupus screamed in his head.
Chance ripped his claws out of the shelf, releasing the first tentacle, and twisted sideways as another metal limb came hissing out of the blue aimed for his back... But due to his evasive move, the second tentacle corrected too late and slammed squarely into the first, neatly severing it.
Chance slashed down with full strength using both claws before the second tentacle could recover. This time, he was lucky enough to rip through the metal into the metallic nerves within... sparking and jerking, the second tentacle fell limp.
Ash was nearly transfixed by the stabbing tip of the tentacle aimed for her... Alerted by Chance's yell of alarm and pain, she had dropped instantly into a crouch, the tentacle missing overhead to slam into a side of beef. Going on the offensive, the redhead spun around as the tentacle fought to unjam itself from the meat, catching sight of the Octopu5 drone as it pulled itself from the air vent, more tentacles ready to strike.
Ash wasn't armed with a projectile weapon... and even her long-bladed katana had to be left behind in the van. Instead, she pulled two shorter-bladed combat knives from her inner thighs, just managing to parry a tentacle striking straight at her face as shouts of alarm came from Raven and Crystal.
"Help us, dammit!" She screamed, forsaking her reluctance to use foul language for once, hoping that the people in the bar could hear her as her cold-dampened reflexes barely blocked another tentacle lash.
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