Dirty DeedsThose that had been held against their will were freed. We saw it all on the news spun as ‘a feat of international cooperation that has brought down a series of international terrorist cells.” I suppose, as far as that goes it’s a correct assessment, but something feels wrong.
Even taking Deep Six into account that had been too easy. Miko told me this, and that I should get ready for their counter to what we had just done to them. The ‘suit’, and I use the term in the loosest possible way, was apparently shown to me so I would understand why I’d been here as long as I have. Hopefully it wasn’t going to come to that, but if it does half of what the hoopla claims then I might try it on anyway. Later though. Right now I’m shelving neuro-interfaces, Legion, and the rest. My job now is to find it and try either preventing Bad Things from happening again, or finding a way to make Bad Things from going away if they did happen.
Being illegal for Joe or Jane consumer to have a quantum processor was the one huge drawback to the sort of power I had at my disposal. I knew when I’d bought ‘Six that in addition to upgrades being mind bindingly expensive that no matter if I was an otherwise moral and honest person I was looking at years if not decades of prison time. Never mind the fact that I’m already guilty of electronic terrorism, or whatever new buzzword they’ve coined for breaking into networks I’m not allowed into.
This thought crosses my mind while I look over the apparatus my ‘friends’ were showing me. To me it looks little better than a hockey helmet attached via cabling down the back to a bit of motocross body armor that has a segment in the back molded for my laptop to fit along with some arm and leg pieces that looked like they might have originally been from other sports. Can’t blame whoever threw this one together for taking ideas from places that already needed mobility and protection, but I was somewhat stumped on what the point of it was. Oh-Kay then. I’ll bite. Whatisit?
Miko looked supremely smug and self-confident when she told me that is why and what I’ve been kept in the dark about. According to her excited chatter after putting all that on and connecting ‘Six up it’ll up not only my response time while making with the digital chaos, but supposedly there would be some sort of sympathetic feedback and some other techno-babble terms that left my eyes glazed over until they put it in English; I’d have the sort of reaction timing needed to dodge bullets, strength to toss people around like rag dolls, and all sorts of other movie hero mojo. Alright then Miss Crazyhead. It was held together with duct tape and bailing wire and even if that held up I just didn’t buy the whole kung-fu wireman routine.
I’ve no clue where the thing came from, but considering the mat olive drab paint I’m guessing military was involved somewhere. Next I suppose I have to wonder why all the hush-hush, other than me writing them off as insane. So I turned to Miko and asked.
“You don’t want to know.” She shook her head. “No, really I don’t know either. They just dropped it in my lap and told me what would be needed to make it work.” More things were done just at the edges of my vision before she rapped a knuckle against the chest plate. “Alright you’ve got power. Give it a go.”
I didn’t feel any different than a few moments before, slightly ridiculous and more than a little annoyed at having been held for a week just so they could field test this.... I started for the door. People reacted but it all felt slow, like watching a video at half-speed. Strange. Move. There’s no words to describe how it felt to be able to move this fast and my mind.
Picture all those times you had something at the tip of your tongue. Something just outside of memory, or a problem you know you could solve if you could just put a little more oomph there. Well this was that extra oomph. This is my brain backed by a quantum processor.
Hours later Everything. Hurt. Nothing broke, but twenty minutes in the suit left my body feeling like it’d spent hours out in the sun pulling hundred pound weights up hill. Apparently pushing one’s body to it’s limits isn’t high on the list of things that feel great. Go Figure.
“Why?” I lay in bed aching everywhere. My head hurt, and I was annoyed. “Why make me wait for that..... Thing to show up?”
Miko sat at the foot of my bed and was doing something, what I don’t know because I couldn’t move my head for a better look. “The suit wasn’t built for your computer to use. How could it have been. It’s something from the Cold War. Never could get the thing to work right and breeding people that could take the stresses wasn’t an option.”
Light bulb moment. “Wait. You’re saying I was stuck in a mothballed suit of pain and agony as old as I am?” I tried bringing palm to face but still nothing but twitchy pain. Upset much? You Bet.
“That’s why we needed the time, to make sure our patches worked and it wouldn’t break you in half.” Worried voice she.
Still, much frustrated. “But WHY?”
“OK,” Deep breath. “We wanted to try using it as a mental booster, give you an added edge in case Red queen pulled a quantum ace out at the last minute. Does no good to have that sort of mental processing if you couldn’t move to use it, plus if things are going as badly as some of the others are claiming we might not be as secure in our next run.”
I made annoyed and hurt noises before flopping one of my arms in the direction of the door. “Please go now. I’m sure later things will make sense but right now everything hurts and no I don’t want any pills to make it all fuzzy.”
It had taken days, and I only found what Red Queen was up to after it was banging on the proverbial front door. I was still nursing hurts and aches from the suit’s test run the day before and somewhere my mind was screaming at the unfairness of it all.
‘Six informed me that several of Legion’s larger servers have gone dark and worse, several people suddenly either late for expected meetings, or outright calling for help as people came to drag them away to points unknown. Legion has a decentralized network, so even those moral losses did little to impede traffic, but these people weren’t just anyone. They had been, if not leaders in the strictest sense of the word, people others looked up to and respected. Something stinks, and I’m getting to the bottom of it.
I was in my room when I started connecting the dots, so I didn’t hear the first signs of the break-in. When I realized what was going on I started to look for an exit, any exit. Don’t give me that look. These are not my people, and I was pretty sure I was their main reason for showing up. Sure Miko and the others were important in their own ways, but I figured I was what they wanted, and with me not there they’d have less reason to stay than they would otherwise.
The fire alarm had gone off when I was somewhere between the stairwell on my floor and the ground floor fire escape. The big robo-future-nazi looking type was crouched by said door with a machine gun of some sort. I dunno; it was stubby and fired lots of bullets whenever he pulled the trigger, other than that I couldn’t really have made any guesses.
He looked at me and grimaced, pointed to the door and held up three fingers. Suppose that could have meant either go on three or three people were waiting on the other side. He didn’t look like he was about to move so I took it to mean the latter and started keeping as much of me next to walls as I edged around. Nothing I could do to help, and more likely than not they’d try using me as a shield or something. Look, I hate running. If I had the know-how I would’ve rushed in to help defend our ‘fortress’. I hated my position, but self loathing could wait till I got away from people wanting to put holes in me.
Next fire exit was also covered, ditto for the one after that, and the one after that. I was sore, wired, afraid, and pissed. I wasn’t thinking about where I was or where I was going, but I’d managed to get to where they had stowed that ruddy suit. Were this an action movie, or a video game this would be where I’d get armored up and walk out twelve feet tall and start hurling Fire and Judgment at my enemies. It wasn’t like that at all, no matter what any ‘eyewitnesses’ say.
I was suited up alright, but everything else was different. Deep Six was cradled by layers of Kevlar and composite materials at the small of my back, making bending difficult, the whole thing felt somewhat clumsy at first. Then it was turned on. There was no immediate rush of knowledge or coordinated plan, but when it was turned on the suit’s movements smoothed out and I felt just a little more confident it at least wouldn’t fall apart while we ran for... Wherever. This isn’t the movies or anything. It was just me, this power sucking gizmo, and a few other tired and frightened folk that had even less an idea than me on what to do now that bullets started flying.
Let me take that back. I knew things. There was no heads up display or the like, but I knew the layout of the building as if I had lived there for years. I knew where what was supposed to be, and thankfully I already knew how to work this damned suit and roughly how long the batteries would hold up. It’s not something I can put into words, more like instinct, or having done something so often it becomes almost a reflex.
Whatever I guess. I stepped out, still hugging walls and crouched low, and started for the nearest way out. I saw people draw those stubby machine guns on me and my sense of time went all funny. Adrenaline can do that to you. Time doesn’t slow down so much as your mind and reactions speed up. They fired and I moved. Again they fired, and I watched the bullets whip by me wondering, in a mad moment of calm, just what I was going to do if my Neo impersonation cracked. They weren’t aiming at my legs after all.
I was close enough to touch them by the time they were ready to fire again. I never studied any form of hand to hand fighting, so I didn’t try anything fancy. Just grab one guy’s wrist and pull really really hard. Hadn’t intended on throwing him into his partner, but I’ll take what good fortune I will.
Great. Nobody shot at us when I stuck my head out. Didn’t see anyone outside and I saw several cars. Don’t ask me why I went back in. Please, I have no rational explanation to offer. I have zero combat experience, not even anything from gaming to draw on. I’m more a RPG or MMO type. Yet I went back in. Maybe it was the suit, or the whole ‘dodged bullets like some kind of movie hero’ thing, but I went back in.
Both goons I saw earlier were still splayed on the ground making low noises of pain. I took both guns with me before I went further inside. Didn’t plan on using them, just didn’t want to risk leaving them and their guns in the same place.
So. Back into the confused jumble of shouting, loud noises, gunfire, and people trying to kill me I not-so-boldly-go. I was scared out of my mind, and I knew, after a quick systems check, I had maybe a half hour left before the batteries gave out.
Great. I get something that gives me just enough juice to get my head blown off. I could have still run for it, but Miko was in there, and even though she wasn’t exactly a friend I knew her well enough that her going would bother me. For that matter anyone going, especially because of me, would keep me up at night.
With information being fed to me I had a rough idea on where to go and some tiny clue on how to act when I got there. It involved lots of running, lots of throwing people around, and more than a couple people shooting at me. I got hit several times, each time feeling like someone had hit me with a baseball bat as hard as they could, yet the armor held. Didn’t like getting hit, pain and all aside, I never knew when or if the armor would fail and I’d end up on the floor with blood leaking everywhere.
Their plan had apparently been to herd everybody into the cafeteria and either find me huddled in amongst the masses, or use them to force me to surrender myself. We found that out after ‘talking’ to the banana they’d put in charge of grabbing me. I watched some of the conversations, and asked questions in others but I never went in. Didn’t trust me well enough.
It was just too tempting to go in there with a sledgehammer and start breaking things. They didn’t know about any grand plots or programs, but they tried to take me prisoner, and they were the same sort of people that took my friends. I take that kind of thing personally.
What did we learn? Let’s see. All those taken in this round were to be taken to some place I’d never heard of in Arkansas either to be held until I stepped out into the open or until they thought I wouldn’t be a problem anymore, I.E. Because I was too busy being dead to try punching neat little holes in their fallback plans. Did I already mention I was taking all of this very personally? Let me correct that. I wanted to see every single person responsible put in a dark hole somewhere. Since that was unlikely I’ll take what I can get; my life and the lives of all those they’d toyed with.
I won’t bloat this account by explaining how I’d gotten tickets for me and a few others, Tanya and the ten foot tall Blonde Cyborg included, back to the states. Go back a few sections and you’ll get some idea on the process if you want, but the details at this point are unimportant. What was important, however, was what we would do once we got there. We had a plan of sorts and we had enough people who actually knew what they were doing to maybe possibly pull it off.
Oh and you might be wondering about the people we were ‘talking’ to, the ones that broke in and tried kidnapping me. Don’t worry. We left them on the side of the road somewhere in their skivvies and I didn’t care one bit whether they managed to get back to whatever hole they crawled out of.
> You’re crazy you know that?
> Probably true Juno, but this whole move, counter-move thing. They upped their game when they tried taking a shot at me. They found our safe house. I can’t let that go unanswered.
> But you’re talking about walking right into their hands and hoping your Hail Mary pays out.
> Don’t get me wrong. I’m going to keep fighting till they put a hole in my head. I can see where this is going and one way or another I’m ending it. Now.
> What if they kill you? They’ll just keep going like they have been.
> Not true. Not true at all. I get waxed then Gibbon leads a global assault. Might not kill them, but it’ll cripple them for a time, and when they manage to get back on their feet they’ll see their worst nightmares come to pass.
> Rise of a homicidal AI bent on destroying all humans?
> Oh please. Nothing that overblown. Just... Well. You’ll see.
> Hope you know what you’re doing.
> So do I. Wait. You said you might be able to help me right?
> There’s only so much I can do, but what do you have in mind? > Nothing too complicated or risky. I just want you to help distribute a few different files.
> Yea. Just a few things we managed to snag from the last raid. Stuff I’d gotten from Homeland Security, stuff that friends of mine had paid dearly to get hold of.
> Detailed plans for my computer and the processor that runs it.
> You’re kidding. They would have destroyed any copies they’d found.
> They might have, but Legion wouldn’t.
> You mean...?
> We are Everywhere and We are Nowhere. We are Everyone, and We are No-one.
> Oh c’mon that was a perfect setup.
> You have a screwy sense of humor.
> I also have the addresses to several of their families. They want to play hardball? I’ll give them exactly what they’ve given me, and I will guarantee you they will be the first ones to flinch. Mutually Assured Destruction.
> Do you want to do this? Nevermind that they’ve probably got years experience on you with the whole blackmail thing. Do you want to do this?
> Not a single bit. It makes me feel worse than filthy to sink to their level, but I don’t see any choice to get them off my neck.
> Let’s just hope they blink before we find out if I’m bluffing or not.