Thursday, March 5, 2015

Endless Horizons - Flatline: Contingency

Endless Horizons - Flatline: Contingency

“Sir, you have incoming.” Intoned Guin suddenly.

“Onscreen, Guin” said Flatline distractedly.

“No sir. You have actual incoming.” At that Flatline looked up. A map display of the building snapped into holo-view above his cobbled rack from where he’d been working. The three-dimensional model showed four blips moving through the abandoned under-floors of the building, obviously moving with purpose. He was sixteen floors up, a half-constructed apartment complex that had been abandoned for one reason or another. Squatters occupied the bottom 5, but up here the wind was too strong against the open concrete for people to actually stay. No running water either, but there was electricity, and a hook into the SolarNet that functioned just fine.

“Shit. Eta?”

His fingers danced faster, the rack was hard-spliced into a coded terminal in the concrete. If he had to move now, he’d lose weeks of work. Weeks of sneaking through the shadows, weeks of scoping places out and arranging for equipment.

“Approximately 4 minutes, they seem to know the exact way to the intrusion site.”

“Jam their communications, they have a watcher.”

“On it.”

Lines of security ice spiraled through his eyes as he manipulated numbers and watched his math. Hacking was a transitive art, the dead language of Tetravigesimal code spiraled past Tso as he did complicated calculations in his head. Even though they were numbers, he imagined the sounds of locks snapping open.

“Eta: 2 minutes.”

“More time, more time…can you seal any of the doors?”

“No sir, none of the door locks are functional.”

“Who are they?”

“Accessing profiler records…”

The rack dinged once, and he spun around back to it. Finding what he needed, he spliced two wires into the broadcast line.

The rack pinged again, 3 minutes to upload complete.

“Shit.”

“Eta: 1 minute.”

“Not enough time. Guin, shunt to hardcase. I can’t let you be found. And if I don’t make it out of this…well,”

There was no more time, the marking light of his AI winked out, and Tso pulled the data-chit out of his wrist console. With a shrug he put it into his mouth, snapping the magnetic chit against one of his back teeth for safe-keeping.

The door exploded outwards, blown open by a shotgun, if he could judge from the loud rapport.

Three men walked in. One was a suit, the other two were mercs. The mercs were pretty professional, adorned in heavy flak jackets, both carrying a heavy repeating shotgun, knives strapped to their vests and goggles over their eyes. The suit was another matter. Tall, gaunt and with a face that was pocked and cragged worse than Luna. He had a pistol out in one hand, a large rectangular gun-bag on his back, and a flowing black trencher hid anything else beneath.

The suit…he knew.

For a moment, no one moved, the mercs had their shotguns trained on him, but he was halfway behind the rack with one hand buried in the wires.

He didn’t need to glance at the monitor to know the time… 2 minutes to upload complete.

Stall.

Head moved a little to the left, genial, almost cordial. Not too cordial. “Wolf.”

The suit didn’t smile. “Flatline.”

They stood frozen for a moment. Then the suit tucked his gun away into a waist holster.

“Where is it?”

Tso leaned out just a little more, as though actually confused. “Where’s what?”

One merc raised a shotgun to him.

“No games now Flatline. Where is it? They know you made a copy, they sent me to get it back and take you out.”

“Doesn’t seem very…neighborly if you ask me.”

“Not sure if they are asking.”

“Who’s to say that I didn’t just make another copy? Give you one, walk away, keep another copy and so on, and so-“

The shotgun was louder than he would have expected, in this open floor. The rapport burst a wave of heavy pellets that battered into the rack. Tso pulled his face back just in time to avoid the worst of it, hot pellets spattered against his gloves and synth-weave armor. The damage was minimal, maybe a few burns that salve would need to take care of in the morning. He was relieved to see the holo in front of him flicker just once and then resume, hidden from sight in the rack. 30 seconds.

“Okay okay! Put the fun-stick away sparky!”

The pump reload of the shotgun seemed ominous. Then the rack blinked once.

Transmission complete.

In the corner of the screen, he could see a binary-hacked face of Moira giving him the thumbs up. Then the rack died completely and went silent.

The Wolf was suddenly next to him. “What’s all this?”

Tso turned, too slow, he felt the prick of a dart somewhere just above the right side of his ribs.

Shit.

“Arm comp too slow for you these days? Had to cobble together a bunch of junk to look at porn?”

“Something like that.” His mouth felt weird, cottony. The floor swirled and then HEAVED. Tso dropped to his knees.

The Wolf was looking at him, emotions unreadable.

“It’s too bad kid. They said you were real good at what you do. It’s too bad.”

Tso tried to say something, found his mouth and tongue were getting worse. It felt like someone had removed his lips and replaced them with balloons.

“What’s that? Oh.” The Wolf turned, picked up the pack of Yuehans off the cooling, darkened rack. He took one out and put it between his lips, and another one which he placed in Flatline’s mouth.

Distantly, Tso could barely feel it. The Wolf lit it with a sulfurus cloud match, the flare of green-red light seemed particularly harsh. He pulled once on his own cig, and then lit Tso’s almost casually. Almost like they were old friends.

“It’s too bad. You could have worked for me, could have had the whole galaxy eating out of the palm of your hand. And for what. For some stupid military AI that you accidentally turned on.”

Tso’s lips moved ever so slightly, and a sound like a whine came out.

“What’s that?” The Wolf leaned down.

Tso tried again, the cig fell to the concrete, sending rich ash as it tumbled. “Fuuuuu”

“Heh, whatever it is you’re thinking kid-“

“Diu nei lo mo. Fuck. You.” Each word was a struggle, carefully articulated against his betraying tongue.

The Wolf drew back. His hand went to the gun at his waist. Both mercs whirled, snapping up their shotguns.

On his wrist, the arm compy flared once, a burst of encoded data.

Then the building heaved. Really heaved, not just for Tso. One merc gave a shout of surprise. The concrete slab they were on roared as it cracked.

Another boom. A third, and then they began cascading through the building from the upper levels down. If the mercs and the Wolf were yelling, they couldn’t be heard over the din.

Cascades of calcium dust-whipped around, and huge chunks of stone fell like rain. The face of the Wolf disappeared in the white-dust.

Tso closed his eyes, and darkness swiftly enclosed him.

Hope I got the math right.

He always got the math right.