Life is sometimes best shown in the obscure

Written in 365 Parts: 157: Eradicate Everything

Beta and Delta breathed an almost simultaneous sigh of relief as the second wave of vehicles drew back to a safe distance. The assault from the auto-cannons had been too much for the vehicles. There had been ten vehicles in that wave, they were using magnetic suppression and electromagnetic damping to reduce the impact from the electro-mag cannons the two Dricks had deployed.

The protocol was still to reduce any extraneous loss of life or damage. That would only cause increased attention and would escalate any response. The response from this was already going to be significant. 

The cannons the Dricks had deployed fired targeted beams of electromagnetic energy, which was less damaging than a global pulse of energy but significantly more precise. They were commonly used by the justice and military sections of government. This weaponry caused less lasting damage and was sanctioned for use against civilians. They were highly illegal for non-official usage but that was less of a consideration when one was conducting an all out assault on a building. 

The enemy had tried to use speed and countermeasures to get close enough to overpower and land troops and support units. The second wave was harder to beat back than the first and had also revealed the weak spots on the defence coverage. The Dricks knew that the next wave would be even greater in force and would target that weakness. The next wave would likely succeed. They signalled the command and received the go ahead for the final phase of their part of the operation.

Drick Delta signalled to the watcher that they would not likely survive the next assault and that God would no longer be needed to watch them. It was not part of the mission parameters for them to require a rescue just to hold off support forces for the maximum length of time. 

While the assault team was attempting to inflict as few casualties as possible, the opposing side were not so picky. They waited for confirmation of their response and for approval to move to the final phase. It was a few moments before the response was given and they were requested to hold for as long as possible to give the internal teams time to implement the final phase of their assault.

The Two Dricks began to assemble the molecular explosives. Once triggered the bombs would eradicate everything in a three metre radius. In an instant a globe would be reduced to its components eradicating all traces that would reveal who had conducted the external assault.

Written in 365 Parts: 156: Tell Me Anything

“So amuse me,” they leaned back as a small side table appeared with a glass of iced water on it. “What is your contingency plan now?”

“In warfare you cannot always prepare for every contingency,” Drick said as they pulled a knife from a thigh sheath, “so you allow for improvisation.”

“I have told you that threats will not work. So that would be tedious.”

“Oh this,” said Drick looking at the knife, “you misunderstand. I like to chew.” Drick pulled a small block of dried beef substitute from a pouch and peeled a strip clear with the knife. A smile, and then Drick began chewing on the spiced protein.

“I’d still like to know about myself.” Said Marsh. “I get that you don’t have to say anything. And honestly I have no real control over this computer program we are in. I want to know more. Can you tell me more? Will you tell me more?”

“Why would I? Convince me if you like.” The smile was broader now as they relaxed and sipped at the iced water.

Marsh sighed and shook his head. “I can understand that it doesn’t benefit you. I can understand that you are probably paid to clean stuff up and this is just pointless to you, beside the taunting to pass the time. But does it really break any allegiance you have? Surely you are just a paid servant? What you know surely cannot have any level of consequence or value. So telling me changes nothing. In that regard holding back is meaningless. Unless you think that I will gain some special advantage? What does the truth hide?”

“I think you’ll find I have greater importance than you credit me with, and the truth can hide a multitude of lies and deceits. People often think it is the other way around. Use a lie to hide a truth. But the reality is more that truths can be brandished to hide the necessary undertakings of those who wield power. They don’t hide lies, they hide actions. Deception is movement that the eye doesn’t see not what words might conceal. Only politicians lie to hide truths.”

“I don’t get that,” Marsh looked confused. “I mean I know you control a region and that’s why your clients used you. But you are not at the head of this organisation. You’re an operations manager. That’s like middle management isn’t it? What makes you imagine you have such levels of power?”

“That’s how it is intended to look. Do you think those above me have greater say in the day to day control than I? Their job is long term financial and strategic partnerships. They are traders and accountants. I am the highest ranking active officer. What does that say to you? Active. Officer. You confuse power with position and that’s always a failure. I control this sector. I control all of the actions that happen here. I just don’t tally up the cost or invest in fiscal guesswork.”

 “So you are not going to tell me anything?”

Written in 365 Parts: 155: A Very Good Question

“Let us move on as we are exhausting the point in discussing how you cannot really threaten me. This is the object that has been causing so much consternation?” The figure looked at Marsh and gestured with an open palm towards him. “I assume this is a fair representation of your external form? No augmentations? No alterations?”

“This is how I look,” said Marsh, “and I go by the name of Marsh.”

“Really, that’s of little consequence, but duly noted. You are not Marsh though, are you?” A tight smile played across the features once again. “I assume you want me to tell you all that I know about you? Why you were born and what purpose was in store for you?”

“It would be useful if you could fill in some gaps.” Marsh moved closer, but still kept a moderate distance. “Why were you trying to kill me for instance?”

“We were not, originally. We tried to recover you. If it weren’t for some unfortunate pieces of luck this would have been entirely dealt with and there would have been no complications.”

“Was it luck or was it incompetence?” Drick quipped.

“I think it would be fair to say it was a mixture of both,” They looked over at Drick, “but that’s a story that is replicated in many places. We were unfortunate and we were sloppy. Trust me when I tell you that those responsible for laxity were dealt with in an appropriate manner.”

“I bet they were. Always with the subtle little plays on words. What are you a criminal mastermind? Why not have a big chair with evil overlord emblazoned on it. Why not just say you had them minced? Also, why were you not included?”

“Aside from my high level position, my real failure was in being held back. I would have preferred to move to an immediate cleansing of the situation, but that decision was delayed. When I say cleansing I mean of course you, Marsh and all of your friends and associates. The item, Marsh as it likes to be known, was considered too valuable. A recovery of property was originally requested. Hence I was restricted and that allowed for errors to multiply.”

“I am not anyone’s property.” Marsh snapped angrily.

“Well, that’s not my debate,” the smile reappeared, “I merely couched it in terms that would be familiar to the client. They see you as their property.”

“Are you saying your organisation is tasked to do this work by a client?” asked Drick. “That’s interesting. Or is it that you refer to Yee On Kline as clients, or is it just someone inside that organisation?”

“So many little pieces of information, each one vital, and each unknown to you. It is a little more delicate and complicated than that. But they do have a significant financial contribution which allows them to dictate certain terms and conditions.”

“Why don’t you spell this out a little better. In fact, stop with the clever word play and just tell us plainly what you know.”

“Since we have established that I have no fear of you, or of dying in this form. That I can control this construct to some degree which will allow me to at least avoid any direct unpleasantness. That my forces in this building will soon overwhelm yours. That you have no real evidence that I have any information worth your while. That I am not indispensable, by the end, as we are calling them, client. That I have a replacement body and a recent copy of my persona available. That you will soon be my prisoner, unless you have already exited and this is remote, which is what I would do. That even if you are not here, I will find you and destroy you, and Marsh. I mean, I already took out your justice department friend. Did you really think that ruse in the morgue and the desert would work? Why would I tell you anything?”

“Well that’s a good question,” said Drick. “ A very good question.”

Written in 365 Parts: 154: The Real Risks

“Looks like they are waking,” said Marsh.

“About time,” Drick snarled impatiently. “We are on a tight schedule here.”

“Give them a break, Drick, I did hit them with about fifty shots.” Marsh tried to sound calm, “they are bound to be a bit sluggish coming round is what I meant.”

“The neutraliser would have taken the toxin all out of their system. So this is them. They are faking it. Wake up.” Drick kicked the form on the floor. The figure leapt out of the way before the kick landed spinning in the air to stop in an upright position on their feet. They had a smile on their face and their eyes were wide open and staring at Drick. 

Marsh stepped back in shock. Drick hadn’t moved. “So you know that you’re in a construct,” Drick’s voice dripped venom. “Hardly surprising really.”

“Naturally I know,” the figure was dressed in a very similar, featureless, grey tunic to the one their organic form wore in the breathing world. “Aside from the fact that it is the most obvious tactical approach, allowing you full control of all conditions including some manipulation of the passage of time, it is the only manner in which we could communicate without me performing some deception that you could not have planned against. So, moving me into a virtual world was the most likely situation where you could have a modicum of control over events. I, also, have implants that remote detect such matters. Even inside a construct as sophisticated as this they are overlaying information for my perusal that is beyond your ability to control. But I suspect you knew a good deal of that already.”

Drick stared into the cool grey of the avatar’s eyes. “Good, nice to see that you are so loquacious.” Drick snarled, “I hope we can dispense with any niceties, similarly we can avoid unpleasantness, and just talk.”

“You may talk as much as you wish,” the figure smiled and moved over to a chair that had just appeared in the centre of the grey space they stood in. “But, as you can see I will remain in control as well. My implants allow for me to create micro-conditions inside any virtual environment. So I do hope you weren’t going to attempt anything tedious. You would be unable to give me any unpleasantness, as you desire to call it, in this place.”

“You’re pretty confident. Are you sure you can affect the conditions that much? There is also your organic body outside of this construct.”

“No. I am well prepared. To the casual observer the one state might be confused for the other. Honestly I expected more from you than this. We have underestimated you significantly over the last few cycles. But it appears that in a one to one situation, you have your fallibilities. I have not forgotten anything.”

“Really?” Drick mocked a laugh. “Why don’t you fill me in on my apparent failings.”

“Well you had not anticipated everything about me. Right now I imagine whatever ground forces had started to attack will have encountered our armoured response unit. We have a full military-grade combat mech, I know it deployed as that information came through before your little interruption rendered me silent to internal comms. The armoured unit is almost invulnerable, and can easily hold off a small army. I hope you brought one of your own. Though i suspect you didn’t. I will have to learn how you managed to penetrate the buildings defences though. I was surprised you got to this floor so expediently. I was also surprised you had gotten an attack force past our perimeter tracking systems.” A smile appeared and was quickly dismissed.

“You want me to tell you how we got to you. Easy. You’re over-confident. You rely too much on systems and don’t think like people.”

“I have to admit, it was a surprise you got this far. I hardly think that it was as simple as relying on machines and confidence that was the hole in our systems. But, I have already noted, your penchant for pulling an astonishing response is extraordinary. Though I feel it is all one off flairs without serious planning of the full consequences of your actions. How long do you imagine you have before I am released?”

“You’re very confident that we will release you.”

“Of course I am. It serves no purpose for you not to. I have a significant amount of influence. Naturally I have a clone of my current mental state taken just two days ago. There is enough information recorded and stored by my implants to make up any other important data that is not in that ghost. I also have a new organic shell. I chose it some months ago for slow growth. I change flesh form with the season. I do like to keep abreast of the latest trends. So I have no real fear of losing this current state of corporeality. I understand it is not the same for either of you. It is you who are taking the real risks.”

Written in 365 Parts: 153: Rogue Data

The answer came back a lot quicker than Hooper had hoped. Barely an hour had passed. The Slicer had reverse engineered the code from the pattern of changes to every sensor reading related to the dates when Camile had visited the satellite. The whole data set had not been affected and so it was easier than expected to infer the answer. Since there were many other dates where a similar pattern of numbers occurred, the slicer had been able to determine which days and sensors were affected. This was achieved  by matching the values when changed, by the reverse engineered algorithm, against an extrapolated figure based on trend for the sensors when not affected.

There were so many occurences of the alteration that the pattern had been easy to verify. There was a high probability that the sensors they thought were affected had been changed. This gave Hooper a lot of dates to help gather more information. It also gave Hooper more sensor readings to decipher. The type of sensors affected was interesting. They were mostly motion, weight, and oxygen detection systems. 

Almost all of the affected systems were in areas frequented by organics. Mess rooms, staff rooms, some offices. Hooper smiled grimly. This wasn’t just a matter of masking the import or export of goods. Someone was hiding themselves. Hiding where they had been. Hiding to throw suspicion away, so they could conduct whatever nefarious activities they wanted.

Hooper requested the full video feeds from the past year and all records from the same period. It was time to start matching video footage to sensors. If they were good, and Hooper suspected they were good, they would have kept clear of almost all surveillance equipment. But it was impossible to hide from every camera or reflective surface. Hooper directed a computer to start matching the suspected rogue sensor data to the video footage and matching any faces, Hooper needed just one image to know who they were looking for, if it were just one organic behind this.

Hooper made sure that the computer also attempted to work out which of the sensor readings might be a false trail. If it was Hooper they would make sure to leave a false trail. Always best to corrupt the data process, it hindered any detection.

Hooper left the program to run. They had another problem to solve. Were the sensors themselves affected, or was it a system? Was someone retroactively changing data, or was there another method in use? It was time to try and work that out while the computers crunched yet more data.

Written in 365 Parts: 152: Mathematical Conundrum

Hooper smiled for the first time in days. The combining of points of datum into one massive database to conduct cross-comparative searches had been successful. They had it. Someone was manipulating data, and Hooper had the manner in which they were doing it, and could use that. It was a pattern that repeated in some widely different sensor readings that could only mean one thing. Someone had altered both of them in the same fashion. To be more precise the data was manipulated by the same algorithm,  likely a very complex one, and there were artefacts to indicate manipulation. 

The computers had been crunching streams of information for many hours. The first sign of a pattern was in air-flow data. The amount of air that is used in any section of the station was strictly monitored and regulated. The filters not only detected the amount of gases, but they scrubbed and filtered the air for particulates and airborne toxins, viruses and bacteria. The filters were analysed on a regular basis and their findings recorded.

They could record the amount of air used by any individual, or group of individuals, and compare it to their movements around the station. A good medical programme would detect an organics health patterns throughout the day and even detect and predict the spread of infections or diseases. Judiciary didn’t pay for that level of pre-emptive medical care. They did have the sensors, and record the information, though. Storage was cheap, medical intervention was not.

 Due to various factors that might affect the readings they were always adjusted to reflect an average distribution of information, and then a program allowed generous wiggle room for non-recorded trends. A room where people told jokes all afternoon would be vastly different to the same people the following day when they were quietly working. So there was a range of variation. You could hide a lot of data in that variation if you knew how to adjust the figures. 

The same was true for the sensors that recorded mass. Every plate on the floor of the building had a weight sensor. As did every lift, every gravitational belt, almost any surface that was in use in some manner. All energy usage and variations were observed and noted. Again there could be slight differences, the machines weighed items into the tenth of a gramme and a program ran corrective statistics based on trend. Eating a sandwich while walking, throwing the wrapper in a waste bin, would be immediately apparent as a shift in mass between being in a room and then going into a lift. So a range of variation was allowed. If you were clever you could smuggle or move items, even replace one person for another, if you could manipulate this data.

More importantly you could do the same with the load lifters, elevators and fuel readings on the shuttles. It was a matter of knowing what the sensors recorded, what they matched it to, and what the trend variances would allow. Hooper now knew all of this from the research of the last many hours. It was clear that so did the quarry. 

What the computers found by analysing every record and cross matching them was a statistical variance in the numbers that was within the trend but had a pattern. It was all about the random. You could generate a truly random variation. It would be difficult and require a very powerful computer, but you could do it. But the random numbers being selected here had to fall within a trend. They also had to fall within a close enough variation as to be not too distant to what is expected. The trend could not always be at an extreme point or swing wildly. Over time, with the large number of datum points collected, this led to a repeat of practice. The algorythm’s constraints of range led to a cycle through the possible variations. So the trend distribution differences in fuel cell depletion of a shuttle journey twenty-seven days previously, which coincided with a visit from Susa Camile, matched the trend variation of airborne particulate collection from coffee in a storage room from ninety-four days ago. The statistical likelihood of this happening was small, but not insignificant. However the same variance occurred over a hundred times in the last year over a vast array of different readings and data sets. That was statistically unlikely. The intellect comparing the data sets placed the chances outside of the possibility of it occurring naturally..

This information meant that something was similar. Why did the visit from Camile link in statistical variation of numbers, the spread of variables, To a coffee particulate count in a locker room? Hooper had the computers analyse both sets and looked at the actual records. The coffee particulate count was higher in the storage area than expected, yet there was only one officer listed as being on duty and they drank chocolate. Hooper verified there were particulates of chocolate recorded by air filters and there were, they fell well within statistical averages.

The shuttle journey was more interesting. The trend there was negative. The weight on the return journey, accounting for all items taken from the shuttle and items gained, indicated that the shuttle had a lower mass to power usage ratio. The statistical variance had the same profile as the coffee particulates. It was the same sequence of possible change. 

If one were suspicious one might imagine, reasoned Hooper, that Camile brought an item with her and left it at the station. The mass difference which would have affected the sensor data was overwritten to the highest level of variance to mask the fuel cell inaccuracies on the return journey. So something was brought to the station. Removed, and hidden, from manifests and its missing weight accounted for in the changing of the sensor data. Hooper started a very thorough check on the data of the inbound journey. It was also likely to be masked, just with a set of variances that hadn’t yet been detected.

The coffee particles then, what were they? It would suggest, since the readings said there was only one chocolate drinking person on duty and using the terminal at the time, that this wasn’t true. Again Hooper started a thorough check of all data around the event. Say someone could mask their arrival at that location, or at least mask how long they stayed. Say they drank coffee while the organic on duty drank something else. Say they brought the drinks with them, or stayed for a drink while there.

It was two data points. But lots of sets of data was collected at those two points. Hooper had to assume they had all been masked. Altered and changed using the very complex deception the evidence inferred. Hooper pondered that if they assumed the information is suspect, and there was a pattern, then now they could use those many streams of data. There were very few suspect data collections, compared to the vast numbers they had collected. Hooper decided that the best notion was to run an analysis on the restricted sets, the suspect data, and the whole data. Use the known problem to look for other patterns and try to retroactively determine if the algorithm was applied to the data all the time or just at certain points. How was it being used? 

Hooper opened a very secure link and set the expert, who did not work for judiciary, to work on the reverse engineering of a mathematical conundrum.

Written in 365 Parts: 151: Data Requests

Hooper accepted the financial charge from the central archives, for the subject access requests they had made, and applied it to the holding account for the divisional section. The holding account was only tallied once every week, so there would be three more days of making the requests for data and accepting charge forms before the system reported what Hooper was doing. 

The moment that the system checked in his requests, and updated divisional budgets the activities would be obvious. Hooper was sure his quarry would flee, they would be monitoring this level of investigation. 

The quarry was careful, clever and had been doing this for a long time. They no doubt had flags to notice if someone was doing large scale data requests. Especially since Hooper had requested the precise movements of all personnel, organic and inorganic, for the past ten years. That data was not held by the judiciary. The law enforcement was an arm of government and all data was centrally collected and archived.

There was also the data protection legislation. Judiciary couldn’t acquire information secretly without a warrant, or good cause, linking it to an active investigation. That was a request that would see every affected intellect in the department notified that their personal movements, both on and off duty, had been part of an access request. So Hooper had used the holding account for the division and had requested everything. It was risky, they might find nothing, they might get fired and prosecuted for a waste of departments funds and resources.

Judiciary was a planetary organisation. Its budgets were paid for from taxes and the application of fines, land rates and loans. There was an oversight committee who decided how much the departments could spend and there were audits of all accounts. What made the situation more complex was the systems that were used by judiciary; computer intellects, storage systems, shuttlecraft, equipment, they were all loaned. Various government departments, individual suppliers, contracts and tenders made up the actual mechanics of the judiciary. The hardware and equipment  was not owned by them, it was rented.

All interaction with equipment was recorded, it was what Hooper relied on for his current line of inquiry. All government equipment was charged, on usage. So every auditor on the payroll was highly attuned to ensuring departments had the best possible equipment, that they used sparingly.

Hooper added the information to the datasets that were already correlating and cross-referencing all the sensor information. There was something forming, a small edge of a pattern, Hooper was sure of this. 

Hooper checked the intellect that had been analysing the small bursts of static that had been unearthed as coming from the satellite. The intellect was unable to decode it directly as the information too short and lost in a sea of digital static. One would have to know precisely what they were looking to find. The estimation from the systems was that it would take even the combined intellect of all the government systems a decade to crack a single occurrence. There were thousands of instances. It would be more important to find something analogous. So Hooper had it cross-comparing data. Hooper was looking for patterns, or for the absence of patterns, and praying there were exceptions. 

The exceptions, in Hooper’s estimation, made the rules, So the exceptions, were always interesting.

Written in 365 Parts: 150: Water Runner

Breathing was fast now. The lack of oxygen now a far greater factor than the dehydration that had plagued them for hours. The water in the suit had collected mostly around the midriff, probably caused by the light rotational spin. It amused, for a moment, to consider that the effects of gravitational spin would be so significant. Though with so little else to affect the mass it was also just nature. 

Eyes flick to the oxygen monitor. It was in the critical zone but there were still a few hours of survival left. The suit was incredibly efficient. Even with the recycling turned down to minimum it was still extracting small amounts of oxygen from the moisture that they had secreted. It couldn’t refresh it to drink, as that system had been turned off, so the limited systems had decided to recover whatever useful element they could. Oxygen. The hydrogen was being collected and stored, it also was used for fuel to power the small separation engines that were giving Drick precious hours of air by splitting the water into its component elements.

If Drick survived this the first thing they would do is invest in the company that made these systems. Then buy a really good model and write a long review on the value of them. Drick would have laughed, even tried to, but all that the dried mouth could manage was a gurgle, that rasped across the tongue like a death rattle.

They were closing their eyes again when a glint in the distance. Drick tried to focus, to blink, but there was little moisture even on the eyes. All the moisture was sloshing around the midriff. They couldn’t focus. A touch of an internal glove switch and the helmet screens of the suit zoomed in. Drick croaked a laugh. Hoarsely barked. It was a ship. It was heading straight towards them. The beacon must have worked.

As the vessel drew closer Drick could see that registration markings declared it to be from the outer system. A Kuiper Belt vessel. Likely from Eris. A water runner from its size and shape. Small forward, dart-like, crew section, filled with command areas and also probably with crew quarters. This section was less than one fiftieth of the ship’s size. 

A long central section, more a hard skeletal spine with large hard points joints. Each joint was a multipurpose docking ring and anchor for attaching tanks and storage containers. A mixture of freight containers of different sizes still populated the frame. 

At the rear of the vessel a block of tanks and a large round section containing an oval of engines. The vessel could achieve incredible thrust from a mixture of ion ejection and fusion drive. It allowed it to accelerate at a constant rate, landing on planets and shipping raw materials across the solar system.

From the look of the vessel as it came closer, and details started to become more defined, it was old. It was probably new in the early twenty-second century. The model type lasted for nearly two hundred years before being decommissioned about one hundred years ago. So this vessel was anywhere between two hundred and three hundred years old. In the latter end of the twenty-fifth century it was a relic.

There were two flashes of light from the rear of the vessel. Close to a large container. Shuttle or fighter craft. They were moving fast, too quick for the suits cameras to track. It didn’t matter as they would be visible very soon. The ship’s crew had to be either scavengers, mercenaries, smugglers or pirates. Drick smiled as they knew that it was a hopeful thought for anything other than pirates. This type of vessel would be a block, stop, chop and process shop. Filled with experts on finding and ripping ships apart. 

The attack on the ship was probably crew from this vessel acting as passengers or low-level crew. Hopefully Drick wasn’t specifically targeted and the attack on the ship merely a matter that they were in the way. Didn’t matter much if they knew who Drick was at this stage though. However things went, at least they would be alive for a little while longer.

Written in 365 Parts: 149: Drawn Out

The cloud of debris and bodies had been slowly drifting apart for more than two Terran days. They were affected by virtually no forces except the gentle tug of a distant star. They would, no doubt, be pulled as long desiccated flotsam into that star and their eventual consumption in some far distant epoch. Perhaps the fortunes of the galaxy may be impacted before then and some other cataclysm claimed their body. It was even possible that they would drift and slowly be taken apart atom by atom by the background radiation of space until some final lump drifted in the dying lights of the last glance of the universe.

Until then the slight acceleration they had on leaving the vessel was pushing them on a long arc around that gravitational object. It would help them set a long and very slow orbit. The two figures who had been close enough to be one object had drifted apart by a hundred metres since they were last together. Their trajectory was never completely matched, just sufficient for the looting of the dead. The speed at which they had moved apart did not belie the fact that they were still trapped in the same parabola. They would drift along a similar path for the eons yet to come.

Power had started to become an issue after just twenty hours. Sustaining body temperature was its biggest issue. The suit was able to recharge, there were kinetic activators and solar cloth layers. But they required far more than the background starlight, and the lack of motion in zero gravity, to help. There was a choice to be made between keeping the suits heating systems working, or the full recycling of all secondary life support systems. In the end it had to be the heating, it afforded the greatest chance of survival.

At first it was easy to just lie still and relax, let the consciousness drift into a gentle sleep. A snippet of some long forgotten verse tingling the synapses ‘sleep of death in which dreams came’. What else was there to do? Worrying about the situation would just increase the heart and respiration rates and cause more use of limited resources. 

But, with each passing hour other physiological factors started to cause issue. They were lying in their own sweat which had started to coalesce around the internal skin of the suit. The micro pumps had been disabled with the recycling system. This was causing slight skin irritation. Far more concerning was the rising temperature, mild dehydration induced fever which was steadily raising heart rate. The dehydration was also causing a headache that was getting progressively more intense. This caused them to be in a fitful state of wakefulness. All of this further exacerbated the sweating, increasing the irritation and making their skin start to prickle and burn. With no drugs to relax the mind the constant pressure to be distracted was becoming a strain. 

There was a light flashing in the periphery of their vision which was becoming steadily deeper in shade. It had started as a smooth green with a high percentage figure but was now a blinking red. It was the suit’s oxygen levels and they had reached a critical point. The supply had already been reduced to its minimum saturation, causing a burning in the lungs adding to the overall discomfort.

Drick did the calculations. There was probably less than five hours of air at this level of burn. They checked the weapon they had taken from the dead body. It was fully charged. Recoilless, magnetically accelerated, ballistic rounds. They would work just as well in the cold vacuum of space as they did in an atmosphere. Drick would wait until the final few moments, but they would not die of asphyxiation.

Written in 365 Parts: 148: Surprise Instruction

Marsh dove through the hot edges of the hole, he had just made, in the armoured doorway and rolled to the corner of the room. In this corner the wall met the large curve of the window and for a second a wave of vertigo threatened to knock him off his feet. A mental shake settled the sensation and he checked his surroundings.

A quick scan of the room revealed the friendly signature of Drick’s suit and no other signs of life. Marsh took a quick glance outside the window again. There was a large amount of tracer fire erupting out of the front of the building, but he could not determine what they were firing towards. The tracer fire was actually the discharges of plasma as the discharges ripped through the air heat-deathing the atmosphere. The angle of fire was seemingly towards empty space. Whatever was firing was taking a lot of efforts to destroy nothing.

Marsh signalled that he was secure on the comms screen and waited for Drick’s instruction. When it came it was surprising but he did as he was asked. Marsh had learned that Drick was always about ten steps ahead of him in working any situation out. It wasn’t that he was slow or they were exceptional, well not that exceptional. It was the advantage of decades of experience of equipment, tactics and events coupled with a passionate zeal for the work.

Marsh followed orders and started to spray the room in a random pattern covering floor to ceiling with a slew of the paralysis darts. Marsh was forced to hit the auto-reloader which pulled another ten thousand shot magazine into the chamber twice before there was a sudden reaction that almost made him drop the weapon.

A figure fell from the ceiling.

The gun fell silent as Marsh almost leapt out of his own skin in surprise. A short message from Drick scrolled over his internal monitor. “They came in and didn’t go out, had to be a stealth suit. They will be out for too long, prepare the hypo while I prep them. We have to ensure the construct program is in place before they fully awaken.”